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Gonzalez confident new leadership will emerge

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There is no doubt the Braves lost some clubhouse leadership courtesy of Chipper Jones' retirement and the offseason departures of David Ross, Eric Hinske and Martin Prado. But manager Fredi Gonzalez is confident Tim Hudson, Brian McCann and some of his other veterans will pick up the slack.

"That will take care of itself," Gonzalez said. "I think some guys get mistaken that a leader is Ray Lewis, the guy who comes out of the tunnel, does his dance and pumps up the guys. In baseball, you can't do that 162 times. It's showing up and playing the game the way we want them to play the game."

As he prepares for his fourth Major League season, Jason Heyward has provided the indication that he is willing to accept more of a leadership role. The 23-year-old outfielder impressed the club's executives and coaches with the dedication and determination he displayed with his offseason conditioning program the past two winters.

"Last year, [Heyward] showed what he was made of with his determination, his professionalism and his work ethic," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "By the way, that hasn't decreased at all. If anything, what we've witnessed is an increase in this guy's intensity and determination to be good and a productive player for the Braves."

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