BOSTON — It was 12 years ago when Dustin Pedroia strutted into the old Portland Sea Dogs clubhouse in the Expo, 21 years old and confident – brash at times – ready to prove himself and win baseball games.

Pedroia is still confident, although his words come out in even tones. He’s proven himself, but there are still ballgames to win.

“The expectations are always high,” Pedroia said Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, 24 hours before the Red Sox would open their 2017 season.

It will be Pedroia’s 11th straight season opener as the starting second baseman. The only Red Sox player with a longer streak at one position is Carl Yastrzemski, who played 12 straight openers in left field. (Bobby Doerr played 13 openers at second base, but not continuously because of his military service in 1945).

“For the last decade, he’s been a bedrock here,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said of Pedroia.

Pedroia seemed dumbfounded that such statistics are kept.

“I guess I’m kind of like a housefly. You can’t get rid of me,” he said. “I don’t know, man. I’m just trying to show up every year and play. I enjoy playing. I enjoy playing here. It’s a great place when you win, and we plan on doing that.”

Pedroia is coming off his best season since 2011; he hit .318 with an .825 OPS in 2016. In the off-season, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He needed little time to get ready in spring training, batting .463 with a 1.037 OPS in 17 games.

Pedroia, who has four Gold Gloves, is still producing. He’s no longer the talented kid who was trying to prove himself when he tore it up in Portland (.324/.917) – now he’s a veteran. He has been one of the team’s leaders for several years, but now he’s the top dog, so to speak.

“He’s been a cornerstone player and his importance to the club continues to grow,” Farrell said. “With … (pause) … as players have moved on …”

Allow me to interpret Farrell’s pause: With David Ortiz gone, all eyes are on Pedroia.

Farrell continued: “Even a guy of his stature in Boston, he’s still growing daily as the leader of our team, and is more and more comfortable in that role.”

Ortiz, of course, is now retired. All young Red Sox players talked about Big Papi taking them under his care. He instructed and he motivated while also slugging the Red Sox to victory.

“You can’t replace David. That’s obvious,” Pedroia said. “You saw what he did his entire career here. It’s going to take everybody to kind of step up in different roles and overcome his absence – and play together. We plan on doing that.”

Pedroia will be one to remind teammates of that plan.

“Our goal is to win the World Series,” he said. “It’s going to be the goal of the Boston Red Sox when I’m gone. That’s something the guys before me started and you keep passing it along.

“You try to win every single game in this environment.”

With Ortiz gone, Pedroia is the elder statesman – the last remaining player from the 2007 World Series team.

“Everything changes,” Pedroia said. “It doesn’t matter who is here or for what period of time. You have to go play together and execute.

“We’re all going to miss (Ortiz). But he’s not here anymore. We have to kind of turn the page and go on.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases