Richard's leadership highlighted by gem

Richard's leadership highlighted by gem

LOS ANGELES -- Padres players arrived at the visiting clubhouse on Opening Day Monday with a beloved work of Dr. Seuss placed in front of each locker. Left-hander Clayton Richard had purchased 24 books and inscribed a message for each of his teammates inside. On the cover, Richard used a yellow post-it note to replace the word "You" with "We."

"Oh the Places We'll Go," it read.

The Padres re-signed Richard during the offseason for a number of reasons -- his clubhouse influence certainly among them. But there's more than one way to lead, and Richard did so from the mound on Tuesday with a masterful performance in the Padres' 4-0 win over the Dodgers.

"It's really difficult to lead in the clubhouse if you're not doing it on the field," said Richard, who tossed eight scoreless innings while striking out five. "... Like anything in life, that's who people gravitate toward -- the people who are successful."

Thing is, Richard didn't need an outing like Tuesday's -- among the best of his nine-year career -- to win any clubhouse clout.

He's earned that throughout his Major League tenure with a reputation for being one of the hardest workers in the sport.

"He competes his butt off out there," said Padres left fielder Travis Jankowski. "He's a great leader. He shows that no one's above working hard."

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That work paid off Tuesday, when Richard posted the third outing of his career in which he pitched at least eight scoreless innings. As usual, he kept the ball down, recording 16 of his 24 outs via ground balls -- including four double plays.

"His game is to keep the ball on the ground," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "... When he does that, he's tough."

It was the perfect response to Monday's 14-3 Opening Day defeat, and it came from a steady veteran in a clubhouse full of wide-eyed youngsters.

"When your best players are your hardest workers, you're in the right spot," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "He is the hardest worker on this team, I don't think anybody would question that. Guys respond to him, they respect him, he's class through and through, and he's the kind of guy you want out in front of a young baseball team."

The Padres are exactly that. With an average age of 27, they're the second youngest team in the Majors. Remove Richard, 33, from the equation, and they're the youngest.

Given the youth and the low external expectations surrounding the Padres, Richard felt there was a message to be gleaned from the Dr. Seuss classic -- which he said he's loved since he was a child.

"That story is going to mean something different to every player in here," Richard said. "At the end of the day though, through the ups and downs, we have the opportunity to choose what direction we go. If we're able to collectively have that mindset where we choose our path, then make adjustments along the way, we'll do it together. One step at a time, and at the end of the day, we'll be happy where we're at."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.