MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Youkilis knew his time in Boston was over when he was pinch ran for in Sunday’s game against Atlanta at Fenway Park. The Red Sox faithful gave the third baseman a standing ovation and a curtain call.
Not long after, Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox for utility man Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart. One day later, Youkilis joined his new team Monday at Target Field as the White Sox began a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
As he entered the visiting clubhouse at Target Field, the 33-year-old Youkilis carried his own bags, including a Red Sox duffel bag. A black No. 20 jersey awaited him in his locker, an odd sight after nine seasons in Boston.
“It was definitely very surreal, and hit me like a ton of bricks when I got pinch ran for,” Youkilis said of Sunday’s game. “It was a great send-off. 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.”
In his first game in a White Sox uniform, Youkilis went 1-for-4 as Chicago lost 4-1 to Minnesota. His lone hit was a one-out single up the middle in the eighth inning against Twins reliever Glen Perkins. Prior to that, he grounded out twice and flew out to center field.
An eighth-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2001, Youkilis was a member of two World Series teams in Boston (2004 and 2007) and appeared in three All-Star Games, including last season. He also won the Gold Glove award in 2007 and finished third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting in 2008.
But the moments Youkilis said he’ll remember the most from his time in Boston weren’t necessarily baseball related.
“You know, there’s two titles,” he said. “The greatest thing, though, is I met my wife there and got married in Boston at my house there. I had to leave it today for the last time. There’s a lot of great memories I have there with baseball, but there’s a lot of great memories with friends and people I met along the way that I’ll take out and can still continue to go to and see over the years.”
Youkilis’ numbers have been declining in recent years, however, especially this season. In 42 games with Boston this year, Youkilis was batting just .233 with a .315 on-base percentage, both career lows. He had 14 RBI, seven doubles and four RBI in 146 at-bats.
Despite all of that, Youkilis feels he has something to prove and believes he can be a valuable asset to the White Sox.
“Hopefully I can come to the White Sox and just bring it day in and day out, play the game hard, play the game the right way,” Youkilis said. “I can’t guarantee anything with stats and all that, but I know one thing that I’ll come out here every day and play the game right and give it my all. Hopefully that’s enough.”
After what has been a whirlwind 24 hours for Youkilis, getting back on the field provided a sense of relief.
“I had to bear down a couple times and get my mind right and focus while I was on the field,” Youkilis said after the Monday’s loss. “Once I did that, I actually kind of had fun. It wasn’t fun that we lost. That was probably one of the things that wasn’t easy at the end. But it was kind of enjoyable to be around new teammates and a new environment.”
Youkilis batted second in the White Sox lineup Monday, a spot he hadn’t hit in since 2008. The Red Sox had him batting anywhere from third to seventh in the lineup this season, but he spent most of his career as Boston’s No. 3 or No. 4 hitter.
Youkilis said he’s comfortable anywhere in the lineup, and manager Robin Ventura made it clear that his team’s lineup could change from game to game. For now, he’ll give Youkilis a shot at No. 2 in the order.
“You see how he fits into it and how he does,” Ventura said before the game. “There could be somewhere down the line that he moves into a different spot, depending on how stuff’s going. I think second is a pretty good spot for him.”
Chicago has used several players at third base this year, most recently Orlando Hudson, whom the White Sox acquired through free agency in late May. Four different players have spent time at third base for Chicago this year, with Brent Morel there the most (31 games). Hudson has played 25 games at third base since signing with Chicago.
But Youkilis brings a veteran presence to the position, as well as to Chicago’s clubhouse. The White Sox began the week with a half-game lead in the American League Central, and they’re hoping the addition of Youkilis can keep them at the top of the standings.
“He’s a pro,” Ventura said. “He’s been through enough seasons with teams that have won — he’s been in the middle of it. I think it’s a big boost for us to get a guy like that.”