Adrian Gonzalez Will Need to Carry Torch as Clubhouse Leader During Second Season With Red Sox

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Adrian Gonzalez Will Need to Carry Torch as Clubhouse Leader During Second Season With Red SoxThe longtime veterans have been ushered out the door. With no new deals, captain Jason Varitek and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will have no clout in the Red Sox clubhouse anymore.

Those weren't the only distinguished exits. Manager Terry Francona. Gone. Closer Jonathan Papelbon. Gone.

Their departures leave David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis as the paramount voices in the room. But as Ortiz and Youkilis age older, the need for another player to step up and lead becomes more pressing.

And it's time for Adrian Gonzalez to carry that torch. 

On Wednesday, the Red Sox first baseman made the rounds at ESPN, answering questions about the September collapse, the clubhouse antics, the team's new era, spring training and his shoulder.

All the while, he handled it with grace and honesty. When probed on the chicken and beer incident during a SportsCenter interview, Gonzalez even responded with a dose of — gasp — humor. 

"People have to eat, whether it's chicken or steak," Gonzalez said. "…More than anything, it was just the fact we didn't play good baseball. We didn't play good defense for our pitchers, we didn't get those timely hits that we needed to bring in that extra run. We didn't prevent enough runs. It was a team as a whole that failed. We look forward to erasing that and getting back into the playoffs."

In the same manner that Gonzalez tackled that question, the All-Star needs to tackle the Red Sox clubhouse. Last year, his passiveness was acceptable. Since it was Gonzalez' first season in Boston, he didn't have the pull to bark any orders.

That's no longer the case. After capturing a Gold Glove and vaulting himself into the MVP discussion in 2011, Gonzalez gained the respect of all his teammates and ensured he would have a clubhouse influence in 2012.

Having understood that dynamic, Gonzalez acknowledged that he would become more vocal this season.

"I'm more of a leader by example, but I can be a guy that takes a guy to the side and talks to them," Gonzalez told ESPN Boston Radio. "I think I'm more of a mentor than a guy that will yell at the team, and try to hype the team up in that sense. I'll make sure everybody's comfortable and happy and things are going well so each individual player can play to their full potential."

That's the right approach. At 29, Gonzalez is at the age where he can influence younger players, but holds enough weight to keep the longtime Boston veterans accountable as well.

So as Varitek, Wakefield, Francona and Papelbon move on to different pastures, Gonzalez is left to clean the mess. With a balance of grace, honesty and humor, he is capable and deserving of carrying the torch.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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