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Youkilis weighs in on A-Rod

Report surprising, admission admirable

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 11, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - As Kevin Youkilis made his way from the clubhouse to one of the fields at the Red Sox player development complex, he stopped for a moment to chide himself for being 25 minutes late for his 9 a.m. workout. He neglected to mention to any of the assembled observers that, in fact, he was a week early to camp.

Coming off a season in which he finished third in the American League MVP voting, and an offseason in which he earned himself a new long-term contract, Youkilis appears as dedicated as ever to help fill the void that was left in the Red Sox lineup with the trade of Manny Ramírez. He won't do it alone, of course, which he well knows. He will be part of that middle-of-the-order section that takes a team approach as opposed to the dual approach (Ramírez and David Ortiz) of years past.

But amidst all the normal spring training questions - the state of the Sox, his teammates, the offense - Youkilis spent quite a bit of time yesterday addressing something much less rosy for baseball: Alex Rodriguez and steroids.

"It's an unfortunate thing to hear that," Youkilis said. "It's also a good thing that he came out and admitted it.

"Sometimes it's hard to go out there and admit to something in your past. There's a lot of people in this world who have done something wrong. Myself, I've done things wrong - not in that nature. But it's tough. I think it's tough for people in general in life to admit to some of the things they've done wrong."

His message went beyond that, directed squarely at the fans: "I've never done anything like that in my life and I plan on never doing it. I've had a lot of success in my life just going about it the right way and doing the right things, with the protein shakes and all the other things that are legal.

"I want the fans really to know that not everyone does it."

Beyond that, Youkilis said he was surprised about the Rodriguez report, calling the situation both unfair and strange, since the names of the players who tested positive were supposed to be anonymous.

"I don't know if somebody had it in for him," said the former Red Sox player representative. "It seems like just to take one name out of that group [of 104] is a little odd."

But even with the admissions and the negative press and the blow to baseball, the Sox will still have to face Rodriguez on the field. And they will do so with a lineup that looks different than it did last spring. Back then, before the fraying relationship between Ramírez and the Sox finally broke, he and Ortiz had anchored the Sox lineup for years.

No more. And the Sox will have to hope that the offense that buoyed them after July 31 last season will be able to replicate that.

"The one thing I always say about baseball and all other sports is one player can't win a championship," Youkilis said of Ramírez's absence. "You've seen over the years it's not even the 25-man roster, you've got to go all the way into the 40-man roster to win a championship.

"It's definitely going to be different in the lineup without Manny Ramírez. He's definitely probably one of the greatest righthanded hitters of all time, and there's no player in this locker room that has the talent that Manny has, hitting-wise.

"I think the biggest thing is we have a lot of depth still. We have four guys that can go 20-plus home runs."

He might have been leaving out one of his teammates - or himself. There appear to be five 20-home run hitters on the team in Youkilis, Ortiz, Jason Bay, J.D. Drew, and Mike Lowell (if he is healthy).

Youkilis doesn't seem worried. He did offer a solution to the issue of gaining some power for the Sox: "I would be a home run hitter if I played in a different park, I think sometimes. If we could play at LA, the Coliseum, I'd have a lot more home runs. I'd probably have about 60 a year."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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