The three weeks since Kevin Youkilis was shipped to Chicago with some cash for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart have flown by. Since the move, Youkilis has hit .295 (18 of 61), smacked three home runs, driven in 18 runs, and won player of the week honors, feeling rejuvenated in a setting that’s both new and less pressure-drenched.
It’s a drama-free environment in Chicago – one with just four beat writers, he made sure to note – that he says has made the game more fun for him.
“I would say there was less drama all around,” Youkilis said. “No offense to you guys [in the media], there’s always a story. I think with us, it’s just about the game, you play and it’s over with. You get a question, but there’s no drama with questions all the time. It’s just fun.
“We’re also second fiddle to the Cubs. It’s great. It’s easy. And Robin [Ventura] is laid back about go to play the game and do the things. We have a lot of fun, and not to say that we didn’t have a lot of fun in Boston while I was here, it’s just a different entity in the Midwest I guess.”
Making his return to Fenway so soon after the trade that ended the 33-year-old’s eight-year run in Boston, Youkilis said he had no regrets or ill-feelings about his last days in a Red Sox uniform but has fond memories of the championships, fans, and friends.
“There’s no regrets,” Youkilis said. “I came in my rookie year and won a World Series, then won another one playing every day. Some guys can’t even say they won one, I was very fortunate to win two and got to go to All-Star games all the cool stuff. I met my wife here. So there’s no regrets of what happened. I’ll never look back and say I should have done this or that.
“Whatever happened in the past through the many years, there’s been a lot of great moments, there’s been a lot of down moments, and there’s a lot of in between and I’m not going to reflect on those. I’m just going to keep moving forward and playing ball. That’s what it’s all about.”
This year’s Red Sox team still had to deal with the lingering stench of last September’s meltdown, which mushroomed into a melodrama of chicken, beer, unaccountability, and irresponsibility.
Nothing about his 42 games with the Red Sox this season was smooth. From the start there was a war of words with new manager Bobby Valentine who said Youkilis “He just doesn’t seem physically and emotionally into the game as he has been for some reason.”
They both moved on from it then, and now that Youkilis is in a new uniform he’s insistent about leaving it all behind him.
“I’m not here to talk about – I don’t understand why this is still a big rift and things are going on,” Youkilis said. “I’m just here to play baseball and things will happen and that’s all it is. There’s no Bobby V vs. Kevin Youkilis or vice versa. It’s about the Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox and just playing baseball.”
Going back to spring training, Youkilis said, said he made it a point to work on the little things with Middlebrooks because he could see the writing on the wall. Middlebrooks said Sunday that even though Youkilis could have been sour about his situation and taken it out on the rising prospect tapped to be his successor, he didn’t.
“There’s a time when your career’s going to end or you’re going to end in a certain city and play for a different team and the guys after you, you want to follow and do the right things,” Youkilis said. “That was one thing, I saw that Will was going to be the guy to follow me, and you’ve got to teach the right way to go about things and to play the game. Terry always said the one big thing is make sure when you leave this game, leave it the way you came into this game. Bill Mueller was great to me when I came into this game and I wanted to leave that same impact on Will.”
His landing spot with the first-place White Sox couldn’t have been cushier. The White Sox are 3.5 games ahead of Detroit in the American League Central, and Ventura has inked Youkilis’s name on the lineup card in the two hole for each of the 16 games since they acquired him.
“It’s definitely fun to know when you’re playing and there’s not added things going around,” he said. “I know every day I’m playing and if I’m not playing Robin will come to me and just tell me – I think, I haven’t not played yet. So for me, I know where I’m playing every day, and I know where I’m hitting in the lineup and that definitely a lot of times helps.”