ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine placed the onus for his strained relationship with Kevin Youkilis on the former Boston infielder Sunday morning.
“I think the comment I made early, he made a big issue out of, and I don’t think he ever wanted to get over it,” Valentine said in response to a question about Youkilis, who will return to Fenway Park on Monday as a member of the Chicago White Sox, the team to which he was traded June 24.
Valentine was alluding to a comment he made to WHDH-TV’s Joe Amorosino on April 15.
“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine told Amorosino.
Youkilis responded angrily the next day, meeting with both Valentine and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.
“I’m more confused than anything, because I think everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can,” Youkilis said at the time.
But it was obvious the relationship never healed.
Asked Sunday if it was strained, Valentine said, “I have no idea. It was whatever he wanted it to be.”
Youkilis, told of Valentine’s comments before Chicago’s game in Kansas City on Sunday, chose not to address them.
“I got nothing about any of that stuff,” he said before a game against the Kansas City Royals. “I’m over all the Boston thing of this year. There is a lot of great past history, but the focus is on the White Sox.”
Valentine strongly disputed he had any problem with Youkilis in spring training, though he acknowledged he was aware that some teammates had issues with the infielder.
“Yeah, I was aware of that,” Valentine said.
Did the manager have concerns it could morph into a bigger problem?
“Don’t know,” he said. “What’d you think? I inherited that situation. I didn’t cause it.”
Youkilis, when asked in April by ESPNBoston if pitcher Josh Beckett had accused him of being a “snitch” — fingering Youkilis as the source of the “fried chicken and beer” talk in the aftermath of the team’s 2011 collapse — didn’t deny it.
“There were tons of things going around where guys had questions,” Youkilis said.
Valentine, asked if he was aware that Youkilis was accused of being a snitch, gave a vague response.
“I don’t know if I heard any of that stuff,” he said.
But he blasted the notion that he and Youkilis had a falling out in spring training.
“I think that’s a joke,” Valentine said. “I wasn’t here last year. There was no friction in spring training, so I think that’s a joke. I’ll take that.”
Youkilis has flourished with the White Sox since his trade. He entered Sunday hitting .316 with three home runs and 15 RBIs, and has had either a game-winning hit or a sacrifice fly in five of the 15 games in which he has played.
In 42 games this season with Boston, Youkilis was batting .233 with just 14 RBIs.
“I haven’t seen him play,” Valentine said. “He’s gotten a lot of hits, played a lot of games. It seems like he’s healthier.”
Asked if he was surprised that Youkilis appeared healthier, Valentine said, “Not surprised. As a matter of fact Maggs (hitting coach Dave Magadan) said he had no doubt if (Youkilis) went somewhere else he’d play better.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
by Gordon Edes, ESPN.com
*photo via sportamerika.com