The White Sox’s pursuit of Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis ended in a trade between the two teams, the White Sox confirmed on Sunday.
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Boston sent Youkilis to Chicago for infielder Brett Lillibridge, RHP Zach Stewart and cash considerations. The cash is more than $5.5 million, according to a major league source.
Youkilis had a rousing end to his days with the Red Sox on Sunday. After hitting an RBI triple in the seventh inning of a 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, he was lifted for a pinch runner. Longtime pal Nick Punto came out to replace him and the pair hugged.
Youkilis saluted the crowd and was rewarded with a standing ovation. His teammates, coaches and manager Bobby Valentine all were on the top step of the dugout cheering for him, and they urged Youkilis to take a curtain call.
”Bobby (Valentine) wanted him to have that moment of walking off the field,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said.
He was unavailable after the game, leaving behind a locker without his nameplate above it.
Longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia said it was a tough day.
”He pushes me everyday,” the Boston second baseman said. ”I want to go out and play hard just like he does. He’s always out there trying his best to do whatever he can to help us win. I appreciate him so much for that.”
Youkilis’ past physical issues required an exchange of medical records. Youkilis, 33, spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with lower left back tightness. He also had back stiffness, a sports hernia and left hip bursitis at the end of last season.
The White Sox entered Saturday’s play with a .460 OPS at third base, by far the lowest in the majors. Brent Morel, their Opening Day third baseman, is out indefinitely with a back injury. Orlando Hudson, a converted second baseman, is batting .194 and at times has struggled defensively.
The Indians, Dodgers and Pirates were among the other clubs that showed interest in Youkilis, who was benched in favor of third baseman Will Middlebrooks, a rookie hitting .326 with nine homers and 34 RBI in 41 games.
”The way Middlebrooks was playing, he needs to be in the lineup every day,” Cherington said. ”Bobby’s done a good job of shuffling everyday.”
But the GM said the veteran Youkilis will long be remembered for his hustle and grit.
”He was a very passionate player that played very, very hard,” Cherington said. ”He sort of willed himself to being an All-Star and obviously was a huge contributor for us in the middle of the lineup. He did a lot of good things.”
Most rival scouts and executives believe that Youkilis could provide a short-term jolt — he was unhappy with the Red Sox, and should be highly motivated to succeed.
”I just got off the phone with him, he’s very excited to join our club and he’s got a little edge to him that I like,” White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. ”I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and prove some people wrong.”
Those same baseball people, though, express concerns over Youkilis’ health, offensive decline and diminished mobility. Youkilis has batted just .231 with a .698 OPS since coming off the DL on May 22, with five doubles and two home runs in 78 at-bats.
The Fenway faithful should get to see Youkilis soon. The White Sox visit Boston a week after next month’s All-Star game.
The season started kind of rocky for Youkilis and first-year manager Valentine. In April, Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game in his weekly television interview, then later apologized to him a day later.
”It’s good for him. A good change of scenery, I’m sure,” White Sox star Paul Konerko said. ”Guy’s a good player and he’s been a great player in Boston for a long time, so you can play at that level, you can play anywhere.”
The 25-year-old Stewart is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 18 games this season. Lillibridge, 28, is hitting .175 with two RBI and seven stolen bases in 48 games.
Cherington was excited to get Stewart.
”He’s a good thrower and looks like he can be a major league starter,” he said. ”He just needs a little more time in the minors.”
Lillibridge is expected to join the Red Sox in a utility role.
”I loved playing here, I enjoyed it so much,” Lillibridge said after the White Sox beat visiting Milwaukee 1-0 in 10 innings. ”I’m excited to see where my career will go and I’m excited to help the Red Sox.”