Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said Monday that he was “confused” by Manager Bobby Valentine’s comments that his physical and emotional commitment to the game have fallen off.
“That's not what I see. I go out every day and play as hard as I can,” Youkilis told reporters Monday morning, with the Red Sox scheduled to play their 11:05 a.m. Patriot Day game. “I take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last. I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself and still get mad. That's just not how I go about my game of baseball. Never have, never will.”
Valentine said he had apologized to his third baseman, who was not in the lineup today, and clarified his comments. “I don’t know if he accepted my apology,” Valentine told ESPN. “It was sincere.”
Valentine, 4-5 in his first year as Red Sox manager, had lobbed the criticism at Youkilis over the weekend. “I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” he said in a WHDH interview. “But [Saturday] it seemed, you know, he's seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he'll move on from there.”
Valentine attempted to clarify those remarks Monday morning. “I think the question was, ‘It's not Youk-like the way he's playing, ’ ” Valentine said. “I think that was the question I answered. I should have answered that his swing is not where he wants it to be, his swing is frustrating, it affects the emotion.
“I don't know what the reason is because I haven't been here long enough. I don't know why the swing is not where it wants to be and he's not banging as many helmets. I thought it was rather innocuous. Matter of fact, seemed like they were trying to bang him and I started it by saying how good his at-bats were that day, his two walks.
“I should have been more specific, physical is about your swing, emotional is about not being happy when he doesn't hit a ball off the wall.”
Youkilis, hitting .200 this season, met with Valentine on Monday morning and also spoke with General Manager Ben Cherington. “I go out and just play the game. It doesn't matter one way or another,” Youkilis said. “There's things that happen over the years with a lot of different things with baseball. If you're going to sweat everything in life, little things that happen all the time — you've got to go out and play and you've got to play the game hard. For me, it's not an issue.”
Asked if he was upset by the remarks, Youkilis replied: “I'm more confused than anything because I think everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can. That's just my style of play. I never was blessed with the raw tools … so I've always had to use playing the game as hard and with full effort my whole life. I don't know any better, so that's just the way I play.”
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia backed Youkilis, which means that the Red Sox — a team seeking stability after last year’s deflation and beer-and-chicken-in-the-clubhouse lassitude under Terry Francona — are in the midst of another drama.
“I really don't know what Bobby is trying to do,” Pedroia said Monday. “That's not the way we go about our stuff around here. He'll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's backs here.”
Perhaps Valentine, whose most recent managerial stint was in Japan, was looking for something to stir up his New York radio show. Or maybe he was just pulling something out of a manager’s time-worn bag of tricks.
“Maybe that works in Japan,” Pedroia said.
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