Youkilis eager to prove he can still play
New White Sox third baseman makes debut against Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Youkilis said he heard the chatter -- the critics who said he couldn't play baseball anymore.
"I think I can," the 33-year-old said Monday, his first day as a member of the White Sox.
"I think I can play at a high level, and I think I can go out there. Talk is one thing, and I'm going to have to go out there and prove it with my actions."
Chicago is hoping Youkilis will do just that after acquiring him on Sunday from Boston in exchange for utility man Brent Lillibridge and young pitcher Zach Stewart. He didn't have to wait long for an opportunity, either, starting at third base and hitting second for the White Sox in their 4-1 loss on Monday against the Twins. Youkilis singled in the eighth inning to finish 1-for-4.
Youkilis wasn't oblivious to the incessant trade talk involving his name over the last week. It didn't make Sunday's game -- his last with Boston -- any easier.
He went 2-for-4 against the Braves, finishing his Red Sox tenure with a seventh-inning triple. Nick Punto pinch-ran for him, allowing Youkilis to exit to a standing ovation and a curtain call from the Fenway faithful.
"Probably the most emotional thing I've ever gone through on a baseball field," Youkilis said. "It was definitely very surreal, and hit me like a ton of bricks when I got pinch-ran for. It was a great sendoff. The Red Sox fans were unbelievable. They've always been unbelievable to me. I can't thank them enough for all the great years I had there, how they treated my family and friends. A lot of great memories."
But Youkilis appeared comfortable and excited to be with his new club on Monday. His rocky relationship with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was no secret. Youkilis entered Monday hitting a career-low .233, having played in only 42 of Boston's 72 games.
"I think I started out really cold, and I hadn't been playing up to my capabilities," Youkilis said. "It was very frustrating. I wasn't very happy with how I was doing. I wasn't playing good baseball. I was inconsistent. The playing time went back and forth. It wasn't the way I was accustomed to playing. I'm excited just to come to Chicago, get out there and play and try to have as much fun as possible."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura was more than happy to slide the three-time All-Star into his lineup. The team's third basemen entered Sunday with a combined .167 batting average, .224 slugging percentage, and .243 on-base percentage -- all Major League-lows at the position.
"It's a position we need help at," Ventura said. "To get a guy that's got his background -- he's a pro. It's good for us."
Chicago's black uniform wasn't entirely unfamiliar territory for Youkilis. He wore the same color when he played for the Cincinnati Bearcats from 1998-2001.
"Getting to put a black jersey on again is kind of cool," Youkilis said. "It brings me back to college. So hopefully I can run around like I was in college again, too. That'd be really nice."
However, Youkilis' last game-worn Boston uniform may need some thorough care from the dry cleaner. New teammate Adam Dunn walked into the White Sox clubhouse hours before Monday's game covered in sweat after warming up and wearing the No. 20 jersey that Youkilis wore on Sunday. Dunn then draped it over Youkilis' chair.
"Gotta get it nice and sweaty for him," Dunn said.
Call it a grossly warm welcoming.
"It already had my sweat, tears and mud from yesterday, and then Dunn went out there and started throwing the ball," Youkilis. "So hopefully he put some more good sweat in there, and we'll just have to frame that one day and put a caption with that on there."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.