BOSTON — David Ortiz has developed a cruel habit of teasing Red Sox fans.
“Oh yeah, he’s retired,” manager John Farrell told reporters Thursday ahead of a Boston writers’ dinner. “There’s no fake tweets. No blank tweets. Whatever those might be, I don’t know. But we’re not waiting for David to walk through the door.”
Replacing Ortiz on the field will be difficult enough, but how can the Red Sox fill the leadership void of such a massive locker room presence? For Farrell, that task starts with the current longest-tenured player on his roster: second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“I don’t want to say it’s de facto or an assumption that Dustin becomes that guy,” Farrell said. “He’s the elder statesman, the longest-standing player here. He’s been a leader in his own right and will continue to be that.
“… I think eyes will go to Pedey, for one who has been a champion here multiple times, has experienced so many different sides of baseball in Boston, that he?ll be a steady force for a lot of our young players.”
The 33-year-old Pedroia won’t be alone, however. A solid young core is beginning to emerge in Boston, led by the “Three B’s” — Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — who thrived in 2016 during their first full season together at the major league level.
?Let’s face it, David was a magnet for many things,? Farrell said. ?But underneath that there was an ever-growing personality of this team that was evolving, particularly with the core of young players that are coming on that are getting established that have now had a year or two to establish themselves.
“That personality is coming to the surface, and I think we’ll continue to see that grow.”
On the mound, Farrell and Co. likely will expect veteran pitchers David Price and Rick Porcello to lead a rotation that has lofty expectations entering 2017. The bottom line, though, is that shouldering the leadership responsibility Ortiz left in his wake will be a collective task.
“Obviously, you?re losing a leader (in Ortiz),? Betts told reporters Thursday. “So, it?s going to take more than one person to pick that up. We all collectively have to try and pick up where he left off. I think if we know that it?s going to take a group effort, it?s going to be all right.”
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images