HOUSTON -- The discomfort in Dustin Pedroia's left knee has been persistent during the regular season. The fact that the Red Sox's second baseman was able to play in 105 games was an accomplishment in itself considering what he was going through physically.
But the 34-year-old veteran got to the finish line still standing, and when the American League Championship Series presented by Doosan starts Thursday, Pedroia will be appearing in the postseason for the sixth time in his career, in pursuit of his third World Series championship.
"He's healthy enough," said Red Sox manager John Farrell on the eve of Game 1 of the ALDS against the Astros.
Pedroia has never sat out a game in the postseason. And he doesn't plan on missing any this year.
Though Pedroia missed the final three games of the regular season for maintenance of his knee, that was only so he could make sure he'd be good to go when his team needs him most.
"Yeah, I feel good. Ready to go," said Pedroia. "A lot of hard work from our training staff and strength coaches and everybody to get me ready, so I'm excited."
In typical Pedroia fashion, he gives you almost a shoulder shrug when you ask how tough this season has been on him.
"No, I mean it's a part of the game," said Pedroia, who hit .293 with seven homers and 62 RBIs during the regular season. "Obviously I play a position where you hit the deck a lot, but mentally, you just try to just block that out, know it's a part of the game, try to come back and do all you can to help your teammates. So I knew I would be in a position to help us here in this part of the year."
Pedroia has always been widely respected by his teammates. But he gained even a new level of admiration this season given what he's gone through.
"He competes," said Red Sox ace Chris Sale. "He's definitely the spark plug to this team. You think about the Boston Red Sox, he's probably the first name you think of. He's by definition a grinder. We all know this year and how it's played out and the things he's had to go through and it's admirable. He's as tough as they get, and to be able to have him in my corner is huge."
This might be the first time in Pedroia's career that he isn't the best second baseman in the postseason series he's playing in. That honor goes to Houston's Jose Altuve, the AL batting champ and a candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
As it turns out, Pedroia might have no bigger fan in this series than Altuve.
"I think the way he plays, he goes out there and plays at 100 percent every single game. He never takes it for granted," said Altuve. "He dives, he slides, he does everything the right way. He's been in the league longer than me and when I was in the Minor Leagues he was one of my favorite players.
"To play the same position that Dustin Pedroia, former MVP, World Series [champ], everything he has accomplished, I feel really proud to be in the same game and play in the game with him."
With David Ortiz no longer around, Pedroia is the signature veteran for this Boston playoff edition.
"Obviously, David was there for a long time and I think it was weird at the beginning, but now we have gone through a whole season without him, our team has formed our own identity," Pedroia said. "So we're not really focused on that. We're focused on trying to compete and win baseball games together and we're not thinking about anything else."
When the Red Sox go through their most adverse moments this October, Pedroia will be someone they can turn to.
"He brings an immense amount of postseason experience and I think the number of games in which he's played in the postseason will certainly be a benefit not only to him, but guys around him," said Farrell. "There's a voice in our clubhouse that speaks from experience and I think a number of guys will look to him for that as well."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.