Rafael Devers is Boston’s $313 million man — can he also be the Red Sox’s clubhouse leader?


At the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, the gravitational pull comes from a corner locker. While most players have one locker to store their gear, this one is very large, with an extra cabinet and bench. The space next to the door closest to the field is reserved for members of the Red Sox royals to hold court. When the stadium opened in 2012, the locker belonged to David Ortiz. He passed it on to Dustin Pedroia in 2016, who passed it on to Xander Bogarts before the start of the 2020 season.

After the Bogarts signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the San Diego Padres this offseason, there’s an obvious heir: third baseman Rafael Devers, the new face of the franchise, who signed a 10-year extension at 313 in January. .5 million dollars. .

“He’s been the leader of this team for some time now,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “When he talks in this club, it matters to those guys.”

In recent years, Bogarts, JD Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Christian Vasquez have been relied upon as leaders to answer tough questions from the Boston media and their team’s fans. Now most of this falls on Devers, who until now was not expected to boy, the one person everyone turns to at the most important moments to provide motivation and leadership.

At the moment, Devers is not thinking about this responsibility.

“Now I don’t consider myself a leader,” Devers said through a translator. “I just try to be one of the guys. We have a lot of new guys at the club right now and I just want them to have enough confidence to come to me with any questions.”

The club’s leadership change comes at a turbulent time in the franchise’s history. Pessimism reigns among Red Sox fans. The team’s off-season performance, highlighted by Devers’ extension as well as the addition of Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, was not enough to erase the sour taste of losing Bogaerts, who reignited talk of the much-maligned Mookie Betts deal, now entering his fourth season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. . Fans made no secret of their disappointment, booing principal owner John Henry and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the Red Sox’s annual winter weekend. If Boston starts this season slowly, the calls for change on the field and in leadership will only increase.

It’s a noisy backdrop for a critical growth period for Devers, who currently plays for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic. At 26, he epitomizes the generational change taking place in Boston: pitchers Chris Sale and Ryan Brazier are the only players left on the 2018 World Series championship team. In 2022, the Red Sox finished last with a 78–84 record in baseball’s most competitive division.

Devers’ attitude, which teammates see as his strength, will go a long way.

“He’s always happy,” said Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo. “He’s not one of those guys who, just because he signed a big contract, will now work more or less. He was just like I met him and I think he learned a lot from [Bogaerts].”

Since he arrived in the big leagues in 2017 at the age of 21, Devers has stuck with Bogarts like Pikachu sticks with Ash Ketchum. The two had side-by-side lockers at the Fenway Park clubhouse, and whether it was lunch or a ball game, Devers and Bogarts were inseparable.

“I learned everything from him,” Devers said. “He created the atmosphere here. I just want to keep her. He was someone we all respected and I just want to continue that legacy at the club.”

Bogarts learned a lot from watching Ortiz in his early days in the big leagues and always stood by his locker after games to ask questions about everything that went wrong on the team. When Bogarts entered the club, he always had a smile on his face and warm greetings for everyone from teammates to club staff and members of the media.

Teammates notice the difference in Devers.

“I don’t mean to sound weird, but he’s a more childish version of Xander. There’s an innocence to him,” said outfielder Enrique Hernandez. “He’s very playful and always has a good time.”

These days, Devers’ frivolity brings relief to the club. For him, the drama of the off-season, like the heavy loss in it, is already in the past.

“If you’re angry, angry, or worried, you have to hold yourself back,” Devers said. “This is the game we play. You must enjoy. It’s a game and we’re a family, and if you don’t understand that, what are you really doing?”

On the field, teammates know what they’re getting from Devers, who has long been one of the team’s most important offensive forces — earning MVP votes in 2019, 2021, and 2022 and playing a key role in Boston’s run. World Series in 2018. He also had defensive success after receiving regular criticism early in his career. Devers improved his range and mobility towards the gloves, with backhand plays and bad shots accounting for the majority of his early career mistakes.

However, for some, it still remains a mystery. Although he spoke little English as a rookie in 2017, he is now regularly seen joking in the language with teammates. But in 2020, when Devers walked into camp and told teammates that he had a second child during the off-season, many were surprised to learn that he was the father at all. He rarely posts on social media – his Twitter bio still lists him as “Boston Red Sox Minor League 3B” and last tweeted in 2015.

When asked if he has made any major purchases since signing his big expansion, Devers laughed.

“I’m going to keep it a secret,” he said.

Devers will now be tasked with leading the revitalized Red Sox, a privately held individual in one of baseball’s most powerful positions. And while Bogarts’ departure certainly leaves a hole in the club’s leadership, Devers remembers watching the former Boston shortstop affect others at the club, including himself.

“I want to be that guy for others,” Devers said.


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