Changing Sox: Youkilis traded to Chicago
Boston acquires Stewart, Lillibridge in exchange for veteran infielder
BOSTON -- Kevin Youkilis' Red Sox career ended Sunday at the spot he last called his own as a member of the Red Sox -- third base at Fenway Park.
Youkilis' final act with the only Major League organization he has known was a seventh-inning triple to right-center field, a knock he legged out with an extra gear in his final paces before -- what else -- getting dirty. There at the bag, Nick Punto pinch-ran and Youkilis walked off to a sold-out crowd's standing ovation and one last curtain call -- his farewell to the fans who adored him for almost every day of nine seasons and two World Series rings.
Youkilis was traded after a 9-4 win over the Braves to the White Sox for 28-year-old utility player Brent Lillibridge and 25-year-old righty Zach Stewart. Boston also sent about $5.6 million to the White Sox to cover the roughly $8 million Youkilis is still owed for this season.
"He's given everything he has in every game he's ever put on the Red Sox uniform," said Dustin Pedroia, a face of the team as Youkilis once was. "It's sad."
Youkilis was not in the clubhouse after the game and the nameplate above his locker had already been removed. Before the send-off, it was clear the 33-year-old's time here had run its course. Rookie Will Middlebrooks had taken Youkilis' at-bats, and the relationship between Youkilis and manager Bobby Valentine was deteriorating. While general manager Ben Cherington said the situation had not become untenable, Youkilis had expressed how unhappy he was with the team's lack of communication on Saturday.
Cherington said Sunday Youkilis knew for some time that trade talks were under way.
"You definitely had all the ups and downs," Youkilis said the day before of his time here. "I probably could describe it to you 10 years down the road better. When you're in it, you can't really describe the stuff you're in. Somebody is going to have to remind me. ... You see it all. To be continued, shall we say."
The "Greek God of Walks'" signature applause could sound like a "boo" to an outsider, but for 953 games with the Red Sox, the calls of "Youuukkkkk" were only made in admiration. Youkilis spent most of his career as a first baseman before moving to third base last year. He was one of just two players still with the Red Sox who was a part of both the 2004 and '07 World Series championship teams.
"A lot of winning," Cherington said of Youkilis' legacy. "He did a lot of winning during that time, he was part of two World Series teams and on an individual level, I think his legacy is he's a passionate player that played every inning hard. Worked and willed his way into being an All-Star player. He went from a good player to an All-Star player through sheer force of will and hard work. Obviously [he was] a huge catalyst for us and a huge part of the middle of our lineup for several years there. We're happy that he's going to get a fresh start and hopefully a chance to play in Chicago. He did a lot of good things for this organization, and for the bulk of the time here, he really embodied a lot of the things we believe in as a player. We'll wish him well -- except when he's playing against us."
Trade talks surrounding Youkilis were not new entering Sunday, but they intensified the day before as Youkilis rode the bench. Youkilis has struggled at the plate all season, and he leaves the Sox with a .233 average (34-for-146), seven doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs in 42 games this season -- numbers that were a clear downturn for the three-time All-Star.
Teams reportedly interested in Youkilis throughout the process included the Indians, Dodgers and Pirates as well as the White Sox, who had a void at third base. Cherington said Youkilis was pulled Sunday to keep him healthy with a deal on the brink of being completed.
"During the game, some things were happening and we were getting closer to an agreement. It wasn't official, but it was close enough where we felt like we needed to get him out of the game as a precaution," Cherington said. "Bobby wanted him to have that moment of walking off the field. I talked to him after he was out of the game and told him we still had some work to do but something may happen. It's an emotional time for everyone -- for Kevin, for his teammates. Kevin has been here for a long time and has been a great player and played hard every inning he's been out there."
Despite what's transpired between Youkilis and Valentine, the manager was right there in front of the dugout, waving on Youkilis to take the curtain call.
"The reception was phenomenal when he walked up to the plate. He's legendary," Valentine said. "His work ethic, his dedication, his ability on the field. He can never come off the field with a clean uniform. He always gave everything he had. The fans here get it. There's no doubt about it. It was perfect."
Youkilis finished the game 2-for-4. He had a scare in the field during the third inning when a line drive appeared to catch him in the heel of the glove. The trainers looked at him -- Cherington admitted his heart skipped a beat knowing he couldn't trade damaged goods -- but Youkilis remained in the game.
Selected by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Youkilis takes a .287 career average (961-for-3,352) with 239 doubles, 17 triples, 133 home runs, 564 RBIs, 594 runs, 494 walks and 26 stolen bases to Chicago. His lifetime on-base percentage is .388.
Youkilis famously holds the team record for career hit by pitches, with 86. He also made a point of fostering younger players -- players just like Middlebrooks, who has large shoes to fill.
"Words can't explain it," Middlebrooks said of the way Youkilis treated him. "He's taken me under his wing and shown me the ways and really made me comfortable. ... No one's earned that [ovation] more than him."