NEW YORK — “Bald Vinny” Milano, leader of the boisterous Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium, will start a chant of “Kevin Youkilis” shortly after the first pitch is thrown at 1:05 Monday afternoon.
It will be a surreal scene, Yankees fans cheering for a player they detested when he was with the Red Sox. But not only is Youkilis in pinstripes this season, he is projected to hit cleanup against Sox starter Jon Lester in their depleted lineup.
“Now he’s one of the bad guys. We’ve got to worry about him,” Lester said Sunday.
The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox in June for two players they since have released. When the White Sox declined Youkilis’s $13 million option, he became a free agent and the Yankees signed him for $12 million.
Youkilis was 5 for 12 in three games against the Red Sox last July, including 1 for 2 with a home run against Lester. But competing against him as a member of the Yankees is an entirely different story.
“It’ll be weird,” Lester said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought that it would happen. But he made that choice for him and his family. I’m sure he’s excited about it.”
Youkilis was signed to play third base in place of the injured Alex Rodriguez. But he is expected to play first base Monday. With Mark Teixeira also on the disabled list, the Yankees are in flux.
Youkilis hit .280 with a team-best six home runs in spring training.
As Dick Williams did in 1967, John Farrell predicted a winning record for the Red Sox.
“I do believe we’ll win more than we lose,” Farrell said. “I think [if] our starters pitch like they have in spring training, I think that will be a cornerstone to how this team performs in the long run.”
Given that the Sox were 69-93 last season, a winning record would be a significant improvement.
The Sox went to the World Series in ’67.
The Sox are working with Major League Baseball’s medical department to get shortstop Stephen Drew cleared to start playing in games.
Drew, out since March 7 because of a concussion, is required to get clearance before he can play in a game of any kind. He remained behind in Fort Myers, Fla., and could play in extended spring training games as soon as Monday.
“From a physical standpoint, he’s improving,” Farrell said. “He feels like he’s ready to get back into live pitching and game situations. From that standpoint, that’s a positive. We’re just working through the administrative thing right now. We’re hopeful to get him in games relatively soon.”
Drew had only 18 plate appearances before he was injured. He is expected to need at least a few weeks before returning to the majors. The Sox will start Jose Iglesias at shortstop until Drew returns.
The Sox designated Mauro Gomez for assignment to make room for Jackie Bradley Jr. on the 40-man roster. A 28-year-old career minor leaguer, Gomez hit .275 in 37 games for the Red Sox last season. The Sox also placed lefthander Craig Breslow (left shoulder tendinitis), lefthander Franklin Morales (low back strain), and designated hitter David Ortiz (right Achilles’ tendon) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 22 . . . Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Sox and Yankees were not allowed to hold a workout Sunday. The Sox did have an optional session of batting practice that most of the position players attended. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks took some swings despite a cold that had him slumping on a clubhouse couch afterward.
Lackey tunes up
John Lackey pitched four innings in a minor league intrasquad game that started at 9:30 a.m. back in Fort Myers. Statistics were not available but Farrell said that Lackey hit 93 miles per hour with his fastball. Lackey has added some velocity, as often happens after Tommy John surgery . . . Lester will be focused on the task at hand Monday. But he will look up for the military flyover. “I love the flyovers,” he said. “I always try to make sure I watch those. I grew up into planes and all that. I love that.” . . . Lester is 7-2 in 12 career road starts against the Yankees, including six wins in 11 starts at the new Yankee Stadium. No other visiting pitcher has more than four wins at the park . . . The Sox are 54-57-1 all time on Opening Day (excluding the second game of doubleheaders in 1903, 1948, and 1982) . . . The Sox have lost eight straight dating to last season . . . Bradley, at 22, would be the youngest Opening Day starter for the Red Sox since 22-year-old Donnie Sadler started at second base in 1998 and the youngest left fielder since a 22-year-old Carl Yastrzemski started the first game in 1962 . . . Bradley and Middlebrooks are two of seven Red Sox on their first Opening Day roster. The others are Pedro Ciriaco, Iglesias, Clayton Mortensen, Daniel Nava, and Junichi Tazawa.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.