FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For as long as Dustin Pedroia has played baseball -- Little League, high school, college and into the pro ranks -- he never recalls experiencing the bitter taste of a losing season.
Then came 2012, the most depressing summer of his life.
"That was the first time in my life. That was tough. Yeah. It's tough when you go out and compete and you [lose]," Pedroia said. "I don't want it to happen again. That's basically it. It's just a lot of frustration. It's not fun coming to the field when you're not winning every day. When you have that feeling that you show up and you're going to win, that's the feeling you want."
Pedroia expects his team will regain that feeling in 2013. And if you think that the diminished external expectations around the Red Sox have filtered down to the fiery second baseman, you couldn't be more wrong.
"Our goal is to win the World Series every year," Pedroia said. "If we come into camp and that's not the goal ... I know everybody thinks that's not our goal right now, but it is."
After winning the 2007 World Series during his rookie season, Pedroia was the American League's Most Valuable Player Award winner the following year when Boston fell a big hit shy of beating the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. In '09, there was a third straight postseason experience.
The reason Pedroia took all that early winning in stride is because he had fueled teams his whole life.
How does Pedroia remember feeling about it back then?
"That it was easy [to win], and you expect it to happen every year," Pedroia said. "But I still do. I still feel that it will never change."
In other words, Pedroia will be sick to his stomach if he is forced to watch baseball instead of play it for a fourth straight October.
"I think everybody is motivated to make sure that doesn't happen again," Pedroia said.
When Pedroia walks into the Red Sox's clubhouse this season, he will feel more at home than in a few years. The new acquisitions -- be it Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ross, Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino -- hate losing as much as he does.
"It's going to be fun," Pedroia said. "You see them around the game, they are guys known for loving to play the game. They like tough atmospheres and good places to play. It's going to be fun playing with those guys."
The case can be made that Pedroia made perhaps his biggest display of leadership when things were at their worst last season. With the Red Sox forced to play three meaningless games at Yankee Stadium at the end of the season, Pedroia discovered he had an avulsion fracture in his left ring finger.
Considering there was nothing at stake for his team but pride, nobody would have raised an eyebrow if Pedroia had called it a season. Instead, he started the final two games. It was a message to his team that going all-out and playing hurt when necessary should be the expectation, not an exception, when you play for the Red Sox.
"I like playing baseball," Pedroia said. "You want to play an extra month there at the end. Hopefully we can do that this year."
And this would not be Spring Training for Pedroia if he wasn't getting ready to break in yet another double-play partner. Over the years, he has worked with Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Nick Green, Alex Gonzalez, Marco Scutaro and Mike Aviles, just to name a few. This time, Pedroia will be paired with veteran shortstop Stephen Drew.
"He'll be fine," Pedroia said. "He's a great player. He's got a lot of talent. I played against him in college and then played with [his brother] J.D. for five years. I was always asking J.D. how he was doing. We'll have a good relationship. It will be fun."
While Pedroia made it a point to say Bobby Valentine didn't have anything to do with Boston's poor season of a year ago, he is thrilled to be playing for John Farrell. Perhaps that's because Farrell, the team's pitching coach from 2007-10, is a reminder of the team's glory days early in Pedroia's career.
"John's awesome," Pedroia said. "Everybody got to know him when he was here before. He's easy to talk to. Obviously when he walks into the room, he has that presence. It's going to be great for us."
For Pedroia, nothing would be greater than winning again. And even if Pedroia expects to do it every year, he by no means takes it for granted. The last three years have taught him that.
"It's tough," Pedroia said. "It's hard in this sport, year in and year out. That's why what the Yankees did for so long -- that's tough to do. We'll get back to that."