FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia said Friday that knowing what he does now, he would not have undergone cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee in 2017.
But the 35-year-old Red Sox second baseman still believes he can be an effective player this season after what has been a long and arduous recovery.
“I don’t have restrictions now,” he said. “I just have to be smart.”
Pedroia chose surgery instead of a regimen of rest and rehabilitation in the belief that it would solve his lingering knee pain.
Now, after missing all but three games in 2018, he wishes he had taken a different route.
“No, I wouldn’t have done it,” Pedroia said. “I don’t regret doing it, but looking back and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Pedroia had what the Red Sox described as a “successful cartilage restoration procedure” by Dr. Riley William III on Oct. 25, 2017, in New York.
The surgery involved grafting cartilage from a cadaver into Pedroia’s knee. He also had microfracture surgery on his tibia at the same time.
Pedroia was activated off the injured list last May but returned there after three games. He had another procedure July 20 to remove scar tissue.
“It’s a complicated surgery,” Pedroia said. “The cartilage in my knee is great now. The graft is the thing. You’re putting somebody else’s bone in your body. To get that to incorporate fully, there are so many things going into that.
“I didn’t know all that stuff. I thought they were like, ‘Oh, you tore this, we can fix it.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, that sounds great.’ . . . But I didn’t know all that stuff at the time.”
Since 2007, Pedroia has had at least six procedures on his left knee or left foot. To play, he now wears a tight elastic sleeve on his knee and a brace.
Pedroia also believes the projections he was given on returning to the field were inaccurate.
“It was like everybody wanted me to come back like better than I was before, instead of just me coming back,” he said. “I might have pushed it too hard or done too much.
“But as far as following directions, yeah, I followed every step. I think some of the directions were, timing-wise, a little off.”
At the request of his office, questions for Williams were submitted via e-mail. But there was no response.
After a relatively routine offseason that included time off to further heal, Pedroia has been able to take ground balls and hit without hesitation.
“It’s honestly been so long that I don’t really think about it anymore,” he said. “I don’t want to push it and not being able to do what I love to do. I’ve just got to be smart.
“It’s just a different situation that I have, and it’s just trying to find a way to get through it and we’re going to.”
To what degree — if indeed, any — Pedroia will be able to play this season will start to be determined Monday when the Sox have their first full-squad workout.
Manager Alex Cora has said the Sox will need to test Pedroia in games to determine his readiness. If he cannot play, Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Eduardo Nunez are available for second base.
“He’s in the Tom Brady mode — me against the world,” Cora said. “He’s been doing that since 2006, nothing different. It’s good to have him here early. It’s good to have him understand that there’s a progression.”
An example of that came later Friday when Pedroia worked out with his teammates. After batting practice, he returned to the clubhouse while the other infielders took grounders.
Pedroia, who has three years and $40 million remaining on his contract, said his days of diving recklessly after balls are behind him. To stay on the field, he has to be cognizant of his limitations.
Pedroia accepts that his knee will never be back to normal.
“Well, [expletive], it ain’t even my knee. It’s somebody else’s, bro,” he said with a laugh. “My right knee is 100 percent.”
That the Sox won the World Series last season without him was actually a positive.
“That was the best I’ve felt,” Pedroia said. “Watching that was unbelievable.
“I wish I was playing but it couldn’t have been any better because if we didn’t win, I would have taken it pretty hard not being able to help on the field.”
Xander Bogaerts, who has played with Pedroia more than any other shortstop, believes he can come back.
“I’ve told people that he backs up what he says,” Bogaerts said. “We’ll be a better team if he comes back.”