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White Sox not lacking for leaders with A.J. Pierzynski gone

Matt Thorntwas an All-Star as setup man for Sox last seasbut says closing “It’s fun. It’s gretime.” | Mark Duncan~AP

Matt Thornton was an All-Star as a setup man for the Sox last season, but says of closing, “It’s fun. It’s a great time.” | Mark Duncan~AP

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Updated: March 18, 2013 6:57AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — ‘‘Super’’ Joe McEwing knows something about leadership, having been a leader himself even as a utility player for the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. McEwing, the White Sox’ third-base coach, was the lead-by-example type who used every ounce of energy to squeeze out every bit of ability in his body.

Tony La Russa loved the way he went about his business so much, he requested a pair of McEwing’s spikes when the Cardinals traded him. He is a manager in the making — perhaps as Robin Ventura’s replacement with the Sox — and so he qualifies as one to discuss the subject of clubhouse leadership.

It comes up now that catcher A.J. Pierzynski is gone. Pierzynski was a tireless worker and iron-man performer who spoke his mind when things needed to be said. He won a World Series with the Sox in 2005, which is worth instant cred in any clubhouse.

There are no concerns among the Sox, however, that nobody is left to hold the reins.

‘‘A.J. led by being on that field every single day,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘But with Dunner [Adam Dunn], Paulie [Konerko] and [Jake] Peavy, we have a great group of quality veterans who are true pros. You move on and make the best of every situation.’’

The Sox say they’ll have leaders spread around the 25-man roster with veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain in the bullpen, Peavy in the rotation and Dunn, Konerko and Alex Rios in the every-day lineup.

‘‘Guys inside the clubhouse will police themselves,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘They make sure everything is in line, and it takes a lot of pressure off Robin. We have a great, great group of leaders in this clubhouse who go about it in the right way. There can be the silent guy or the one who stands up and says something. Or there’s a guy who pulls a guy aside and says, ‘Listen, this isn’t how we do it here.’ We’ve got four or five quality leaders. Guys who go out every day or fifth day and don’t like taking days off.’’

Getting healthy and being able to do that allowed Peavy to accept that role. He is vocal, but he had to curb what he said when he couldn’t pitch. That’s no longer the case.

‘‘If guys want to call me a leader, that’s fine,’’ Peavy said. “The biggest thing is being the best teammate I can possibly be. Guiding somebody, talking with them off the experience I have or just being a friend to them. That goes a long way.’’

Thornton said having Peavy around inspires younger players.

‘‘Young guys see the results from Jake’s hard work and see the money Jake’s made in his career and the preparation, what he does on a daily basis,’’ Thornton said. ‘‘It’s what you strive for — financial security, success in the game, to be a name in the game. Jake is a multitime All-Star and Cy Young winner and has made enough money to take care of his family for generations. That’s a huge part of it.’’

The guys who talk have their place, but chatter has its limitations, Thornton said.

‘‘You can run your mouth all you want, but if you don’t prepare yourself and do your job on a consistent basis, it means nothing,’’ Thornton said.

‘‘A.J. wanted to win and brought it every day. He wasn’t afraid to ruffle the feathers of other players. But is there a [leadership] void without him? No. We have a lot of guys who have the team in mind.’’

Tyler Flowers has enough on his plate being an every-day catcher for the first time without getting bogged down by leadership concerns, but he’s close to taking that on, too.

‘‘I think I’m a leader right now,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘I’m not A.J., who gets in your face. Or a rah-rah guy. I think I’m more a quiet leader, I guess. I try not to act like a veteran or anything like that, but I try to be a leader with the pitching staff. And if I see something, I’m not afraid to say something, no matter what it is.

‘‘You try and help everyone around you as much as you can. That’s a quality of leadership where you don’t have to be a Captain Konerko to be a leader on the team.’’



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