After seeing him up close at Sox spring training, Solari says Pedroia is back!

Dustin Pedroia is back. Pedey will be the leadoff batter in Seattle when the World Champs take to the field for the first time in 2019. I bet he will swing at the first pitch he sees. He’ll be aggressive, just the way he has played his entire career.

This is good news for the Red Sox.

Pedroia is 35 1/2 years old. His advanced age and number of games played — 1,506 — would suggest that his best days are behind him. Throw in a wobbly, surgically repaired and significantly rehabbed knee, and some would be shocked if he makes it through the season.

But here at spring training, in my humble opinion, he looks at least five years younger. He has hop in his step which should give fans hope in their hearts.

He gets the most reps at second base. While he is not being asked here to dive or show the range we know he had as a younger man, he looks crisp and fluid turning double pays. All other players adhere to his leadership and vet status as he gets the first cuts in the cage at live batting practice, where he also looks good, by the way.

Dustin Pedroia wrapping up his batting practice at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

I watched him work one on one with a coach in the indoor cage early one morning as well. He is focused.

Pedroia taking swings at the indoor batting cage at spring training.

And he seems happy. Some fans had wristbands that allowed access onto the field to watch BP one morning. It was before the Sox-Yankees game and a few people were wearing the evil pinstripe jerseys.

One of these miscreants asked Pedroia for an autograph. Most players ignore the cries and pleas to sign. He could have. Instead, much to the delight of the dozens of Sox fans in attendance, he chose to have some fun and playfully teased the guy about wearing the wrong shirt. Yes, the Yankee fan smiled. Me, too.

Fans still migrate to Dustin. One morning he was standing by the batting cage with American League MVP Mookie Betts. While Betts drew some of the fans attention, the greetings, and even some applause as he walked past the group, was for Pedroia.

Players seem drawn to him as well. He never stands alone no matter where he is on the field. Some player is always bending his ear and talking about the finer points of baseball. At least I assume that’s what they are discussing.

Dustin Pedroia talking as he gets ready to take some batting practice during spring training in Fort Myers.

Look, I felt that Pedroia lost some shine after the last year with John Farrell as manager. He did not respect Farrell. That was evident during the Machado/Orioles/Sox dust-up. And it is safe to say his leadership skills were lacking when David Price verbally attacked Dennis Eckersley on the team plane.

But in the big picture, Pedroia has given his heart, soul and body to the hometown team. He is a surefire member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame and will most likely have his number retired at Fenway someday.

That’s in the future. Right now what’s important is Dustin Pedroia feels good. And that he is able to give Sox fans lots of reasons to applaud him this season.

Jeff Solari

About Jeff Solari

Jeff Solari is the president and founder of the Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports e mail newsletter. Recently, the Mount Desert Island native was the co-host of "The Drive" on 92.9 FM in Bangor.