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NICK CAFARDO | ON BASEBALL

Dustin Pedroia looks and sounds like his own self

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia signed autographs before the start of Tuesday’s game in Atlanta.David Goldman/Associated Press

ATLANTA — Dustin Pedroia isn’t out to prove anything to anybody. He only wants to prove the Red Sox are capable of getting out of last place and contending for the AL East title. That’s pretty much what’s on his goals list.

Although there has been talk of decline of his overall game, Pedroia doesn’t think so at all. When the Sox second baseman and de facto captain was asked if he’s still among the best, he said, “Yeah, I think so. What do you think?”

Pedroia, a four-time Gold Glove winner, will not give in to UZR or defensive runs saved statistics that had him below average last season. He won’t take seriously the stat that he’s hitting more ground balls than ever.

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All of those numbers are amusing to him, taking analytics a bit too far and not necessarily reflective of who he is and what he is in 2016. He got on base three times — single, double, and walk — in Atlanta on Tuesday. Pedroia, who is now hitting .318, scored twice and drove in a run in an 11-4 victory over the Braves.

He is seemingly back to being Dustin Pedroia.

“I don’t think he went away,” manager John Farrell said. “He might have been on course for his best offensive season last year before he hurt his hamstring. He’s using the other side of the field as good as he ever has. I don’t think he ever went away. He’s as good as he’s been. I don’t know what goes into rankings of UZR or defensive runs saved, but he’s a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman playing at a high level.”

Does negative talk about his game bug Pedroia? “Not really,” he said. “If you watch the game you know who the real good defensive players are. I don’t read into it.”

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And as far as his ground ball rate being up? “After 50 at-bats? In 30-degree weather? Yeah that’s a real good, accurate reading,” he said. “It’s a good tool to have all that stuff. But I mean, small sample size. Like my ground ball rate is high after 60 at-bats? I think the guy is bored. Everybody has a job to do. I think it’s funny.”

It wasn’t so funny last season when Pedroia kept getting hurt, first with hand issues, then hamstring problems. He trained hard in the offseason to help prevent those things, but he knows freak injuries happen. So, no, he does nothing to protect his hands knowing he could get hurt doing something as simple as sliding. He said his hamstring is fine. Everything is quite good at the moment.

“I feel good,“ he said. “Trying to get on base. Same approach I’ve always had. You go through a long season of ups and downs.

“Just trying to have quality at-bats every time I get up there. Just trying to score runs.

“I don’t care about individual numbers this early.”

Since John Henry declared in spring training that the Red Sox were moving away from analytics, Pedroia hasn’t noticed a difference in the way the team prepares. Those who keep track of such things say the Red Sox have shifted less this season than they have in the past.

“Our preparation is the same,” insisted Pedroia. “We’re very prepared. We still go over tendencies and things like that. I don’t go up to the plate and think, ‘Oh it’s 50 percent whatever on this pitch . . .’ We’re not computers. We just try to play.

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“On the shifting, it depends on how we’re pitching a guy. Like in Houston, they shifted on Mookie [Betts] and they pitched him away, so he had three ground hits to second base. It depends on how we’re approaching it. Sometimes we want to shift because we don’t want them to hit a home run. We’d rather see one of their power hitters hit a single.”

While Pedroia looks trimmer, he says he’s his usual 170 pounds.

“My body feels great. My hands feel good. I’m over that. I took the beating in 2014 from playing all those games the year before hurt. I started [176 games] through ’13 and the playoffs. Then I got a late jump on the surgery. I think 1½ years after the surgery, I started feeling better,” Pedroia said

For the people who still believe he’s on the decline, Pedroia said, “I don’t read into it. I can’t control what other people say. So I don’t read into it.”

As he’s gotten older, the 32-year-old Pedroia said he’s had to scale things down during the season.

“We got in at 6 in the morning [in Atlanta Monday]. So on days like that you have to limit your ground balls. You have to be smart and take care of yourself on days like that,” he said. “It’s not work more, it’s how you work. When I was Mookie and Bogey’s age, I could take 450 swings a day and won’t even be sore. I can’t do that now.

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“I probably take 75 swings before BP and then take my five rounds. BP, I think it is overrated. It’s more a way of getting on the field and get loose. It’s different than throwing 60 miles per hour in BP and then seeing 95 m.p.h. in the game.”

Every year he’s seen a difference in the way pitchers attack him. This year?

“A lot of change-ups from righthanders,” Pedroia said. “Change-ups in. They usually pitch me away. They have advance scouts everywhere now. If they throw a change-up in and I hit it out of the park, they change that. It’s a constant adjustment.”

Pedroia said the last two years have been tough on him. Finishing last has been a drain. He never thought he’d be on two last-place teams, though Pedroia doesn’t think he’ll have to experience that again.

“We’ve got a good team,” he said. “Our approach offensively has changed. We’re first in a ton of categories except homers. When it warms up, you’ll get homers. The power will come. We’ve played 19 games and 10 at home and I think only one game has been more than 55 degrees. It’s hard to hit when the weather is that cold.”


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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