FORT MYERS, Fla. With Tim Wakefields retirement and the uncertainty of Jason Variteks status with the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis (eight seasons) and David Ortiz (nine) enter the 2012 season as the longest-tenured players.
Were very close to having no 2004 players. I get it, Youkilis said Monday morning, sitting on a bench outside the clubhouse at teams spring training complex.
It is kind of wild that that 2004 team theres only two of us left. And whatever Varitek does, we dont know. But yeah its crazy. I dont know if that makes us seem older, how time flies. But I think its definitely kind of weird. It was fun when Derek Lowe walked in the other day for Wakefields retirement ceremony and saw him, and Wake here, too. Its just weird. But thats just the game of baseball. Guys keep coming and going.
"For us, David and I have definitely gotten a lot closer over the years. Its one of those things we sit there and like Man, can't believe were the only ones left here. But I guess we just got to keep that torch going for as many years as we can.
Youkilis turns 33 on March 15, and how long he will hold that torch remains to be seen. He said he would like to end his career with the Red Sox but is entering the final year of a four-year, 41.125 million contract. The team holds a 13 million option (with a 1 million buyout) for 2013.
The way Youkilis sees it, the ball is in his court. He would like to force the team to bring him back.
I think its definitely a business side on both sides, he said. I think if you dont play to a certain point you have 'X' amount of dollars and if it doesnt fit in that equation, then youre not going to be here. Thats something I cant worry about because thats something for them to worry about.
My whole job is to win ball games. And I know if Im out there starting every day and we win a World Series, theres a good chance I might come back. Thats my whole goal. I know if we win and we win a World Series, its going to be hard for them not to bring me back. And Im going to make it as hard on them to not bring me back as I can.
Asked if he thought of himself as a team leader now, Youkilis replied:
I dont know the whole leader-in-the-clubhouse thing, and all the leader things. I think theres different types of leaders. Theres vocal leaders. Theres guys that are leaders by being the funny guy in the clubhouse. For myself, Im a leader on the field, just playing the game hard and playing the game the right way. In the clubhouse, too.
"A lot of times too its just little things the media isnt going to see around. We talk to guys, young guys and tell them, Hey, dont do this. Dont do that. You are a leader, I think, as the older guys. But I think leading by example is the best way. If younger guys see you acting a certain way, they might follow in that way. So I think you have to act like a professional and do the right things and theyll follow in the right footsteps.