FORT MYERS, Fla. - It didn't take long for Kevin Youkilis. One exhibition game.
"I had some fan yell, 'Why don't you shoot up, Youkilis?' the Red Sox first baseman said during last night's 8-3 exhibition win over the Minnesota Twins.
With Roger Clemens being investigated by the FBI and dozens of other major leaguers named as users of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances in the Mitchell Report, this will not be the last time in 2008 that a similar taunt will be hurled from the stands. And it matters little if the player on the receiving end, like Youkilis, has never been connected with steroid use.
"The hardest thing is that people are going to assume everyone is doing steroids or HGH," said Youkilis, who as the Sox' player representative had attended a meeting of union representatives and already knew much of the presentation made by union chief Donald Fehr in the clubhouse yesterday afternoon.
"The guy who works his butt off every day, he's going to get scrutinized," said Youkilis. "And if you hit 10 home runs one year then 30 the next, you've got no chance."
Fehr and other union officials touched upon other subjects during their 90-minute presentation, but steroids, HGH, and drug testing were topics that drew questions from Sox players. Fehr told reporters after meeting with the Orioles the day before that he would be willing to take a "hard look" at HGH testing if a test was developed that could be scientifically validated. Yankees star Derek Jeter also said he "would not mind" HGH testing as a way for baseball to restore its tarnished reputation.
Youkilis said that is all hypothetical for now, because there is no completely reliable test for HGH. That may be debatable. John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said in Lausanne, Switzerland, that there is now a blood test with the capacity to detect and identify HGH, and such a system will be in place for the Beijing Olympics this summer.
Surely, Youkilis was asked, doesn't the involvement of a high-profile player like Clemens cast a shadow over the rank and file of big-league players?
"That's him," Youkilis said. "He's at the end of his career. The young guys coming up are getting the short end of the stick."
Youkilis said he has never considered using an illegal performance-enhancing substance.
"I've never made that choice, and I would never make that choice," he said, "because I care about my future. That's just the way I live my life. Drugs, if it is not coming from [Red Sox doctors], I stay away from that stuff.
"But we're sitting back as players, trying to see what happens. We're on the defensive. We don't know what's going on."
Youkilis said he believes baseball is being unfairly singled out relative to other sports, and also questioned whether the country might be better served if Congress turned its attention to other topics.
He acknowledged that the public scrutiny may have served one purpose.
"I think guys are scared," he said. "Everyone in here [the Sox' clubhouse] is clean, so we just joke around a little. 'What's with this guy? What's with that guy? Why did that guy tell on this guy?' "
Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner, whose team had 20 current or former players mentioned in the Mitchell Report, said recently that steroid use was just as rampant on other teams, specifically the Red Sox. Was Youkilis saying that no current Red Sox player could be accused of steroid use?
"Right now, no one in this clubhouse ever has used steroids in the past three years," he said, appearing to add a significant qualifier. "You're going to get caught if you do. No doubt you're going to get caught."
Youkilis said he was tested two or three times last year, including once in the offseason when testers came to his home one day after informing him they were coming.
Youkilis, by the way, hit a home run last night, after being heckled.
"I don't want to peak too early," he said.
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.