07/17/12 12:04 AM ET
Returning to Fenway, Youkilis exudes positivity
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
From his first at-bat, the White Sox third baseman took care of business on the field. Youkilis collected his fifth three-hit game of 2012 and already his fourth with his new team, just 22 days after the Red Sox traded him to Chicago. That wasn't enough for the White Sox, who fell, 5-1, but Youkilis was still thrilled with the reaction he received when he walked to the plate in the first inning.
He tipped his cap to loud cheers of "Youk" and singled, and in his next two at-bats, he doubled.
"Thank you," Youkilis said of his message for fans. "Everyone was great to me and people cheered me as I ran off the field. It was pretty cool. I know it's very special. I know Mom was here, so she probably was in tears like always. My family appreciates all the support the fans are giving us."
Youkilis' time in Boston ended because of the strong play of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and in part because he and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine did not see eye to eye. After his solid first-inning single up the middle against Aaron Cook -- whom Youkilis grew up playing against in Cincinnati -- Youkilis got the better of Middlebrooks.
A shift was on for White Sox slugger Adam Dunn with Youkilis on first. The White Sox got the out at first base, but Middlebrooks, playing closer to shortstop, didn't cover third in time. Youkilis sprinted for the open bag, leading to a wild throw from Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Youkilis came all the way around to score.
"He's got nothing on me," Youkilis said of Middlebrooks. "Twenty-three years old. I think I could beat him in a race. That's unbelievable. I was joking with him and kind of yelling at him, 'Come on, Will.' He hit that dirt and fell down and I knew I had him."
The Red Sox also honored Youkilis with an in-game video montage. Before the game, Youkilis said he wouldn't take back anything about his time in Boston.
"There were no regrets. I had a lot of fun," Youkilis said. "I came in my rookie year and won a World Series and won another one playing every day. Some guys can't even say they've won one, and I was very fortunate to win two and go to All-Star Games and all cool stuff, met my wife here, so there's no regrets. I've never looked back and said, 'I should have done this or that.'"
Youkilis, 33, has done well in his new surroundings, on a first-place team in the American League Central, no less. He said his new manager, Robin Ventura, "has been pretty good" at communicating. Any success Youkilis has in this series, he made clear, comes from his desire to help his new team win -- not for revenge on Valentine.
"I'm not here to talk about -- I don't understand why this is still a big rift and things are going on," Youkilis said. "And I'm just here to play baseball, and things will happen and that's all it is, just going out and playing the ballgame. There's no Bobby V. vs. Kevin Youkilis or vice versa, it's about Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox and just playing baseball."
Valentine, who was not far from the batting cage signing autographs when Youkilis took his hacks, indicated he would not go out of his way to talk to Youkilis. Valentine briefly chatted with Ventura around the cage, not Youkilis.
"If we run into each other, I guess I could talk to him," Valentine said before batting practice. "I don't usually do that with the other team."
Youkilis said his White Sox teammates might have been the ones most excited for his return, for the expected applause he would receive. But his buddies on the Red Sox were pumped, too.
"Me and Youk grew up in the Cincinnati area, we were on the same traveling team for three years [at age] 13, 14, 15, and then we played against each other all through high school," Cook said. "So today is pretty typical of what he's done off me pretty much the whole way through. I was just happy to keep him in the ballpark. In high school he hit a couple homers off me."
That Youkilis was on the trade market was not a well-kept secret, and he said Monday he had made preparations for his family in advance of a deal. The Red Sox on Monday coincidentally designated for assignment one of the players they got back from the White Sox in the trade, Brent Lillibridge. That leaves only Minor League pitcher Zach Stewart as the Red Sox's take in the deal.
"I didn't know where it was going to be," Youkilis said. "But we put things in place just to make sure my wife and all my family was prepared for it."
As for the future, it's possible Youkilis' time in Chicago will be short. He's a free agent at the end of the season, with a $13 million team option that would require a strong performance to be picked up. Youkilis said that option, which has a $1 million buyout, has not been discussed with White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
"I don't know if there's a ways down the road for me in my career, but I think you never know what's going to happen in life, and you won't say you won't do something," Youkilis said. "But this is a new experience for me, and I think it would be fun. I still might have another year with the White Sox. ... I want to be close with my wife and kids and all that. My family will dictate the rest of my career."