Zolak & Bertrand

David Ortiz wonders if Rafael Devers is ready to be Red Sox' leader

A team's "leader" isn't always its best player, Ortiz points out.

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Who is the leader of the 2023 Boston Red Sox? If you equate leadership with talent, there's a clear answer.

With Xander Bogaerts now in San Diego, third baseman Rafael Devers is the unquestioned star on a roster that's thin on top-end talent. But is he the unquestioned leader in the Red Sox clubhouse? Former Boston slugger and team leader David Ortiz -- who is employed by the Red Sox as a special assistant -- isn't sure Devers is ready to assume that role.

"He should (be the leader)," Ortiz said Tuesday of Devers on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" radio show. "He just -- sometimes I think the language barrier sometimes doesn’t allow him to step over to that role … Because we haven't quite gotten there yet, you know what I’m saying? It’s going to take a minute for him to prepare."

Ortiz often set the tone in the Red Sox' clubhouse during his 14-year tenure in Boston, helping establish a culture of winning that resulted in three World Series championships. But Ortiz admitted his personality allowed him to step up as that leader, while the 26-year-old Devers may not share similar traits at this point in his career.

"For me, it was easier, because I had that personality that basically, if I see someone that needs some guidance, I was always open to it," Ortiz said. "That’s exactly what happened with all those players that have left from the organization: Bogaerts, (Dustin) Pedroia, those guys. Those guys, we took them under our wings, but they wanted to be taken. They want to learn. They have that personality. And that is something that, if you got it, you got it.

"Raffy right now, he's not focusing on being the leader of the ballclub, but he's doing his best to try to help the ballclub to win. So, I think it’s not fair to ask him for more than what he offers. Because I know those are the types of things that have to come with your personality -- a guy that no matter the language, a guy that can communicate with everybody, a guy that has been around for a while.

"You don’t need to be the best player, because I played with a lot of guys that knew more than me, but they weren’t a leader of the ball club. They just come in and do their thing and and they just get to be guided by somebody else."

To Ortiz's point, it doesn't necessarily fall on Devers to be the team's leader. The Red Sox have several veterans on the roster with World Series titles on their resume -- including ex-Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Justin Turner and Kiké Hernández and former Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall -- who can impart their wisdom.

That said, the Red Sox would benefit from having homegrown stars emerge as leaders instead of recent additions like Turner, Hernández and Duvall, who may not have long-term futures with Boston. Considering Devers is under contract through 2033 after signing a 10-year extension with the Red Sox prior to the season, he has plenty of time to grow into that role.

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