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Youkilis sheds light on Bay, offseason, corner spots

12.29.09 at 9:30 pm ET

LOWELL — On the same day that news broke of Jason Bay’s departure to New York, reporters caught up with an unsurprised Kevin Youkilis prior to his receiving the Dick Berardino Distinguished Alumni Award at the Lowell Spinners Alumni Dinner.

Asked whether he had previously thought Bay would return to the Sox, Youkilis said he “didn’t” and added that he had a better idea of the negotiations from staying in contact with the left fielder.

“I knew what was going on just by talking to him,” Youkilis said. “You’re never surprised in this game.”

Addressing the offense as is currently constituted, the corner infielder expressed that while it will be different with the loss of their RBI leader, there is still potential for the “thunder” of previous seasons.

“I think [the offense] will be fine,” Youkilis said. “We’re definitely [going to miss] Jason Bay driving in all those runs, but the luxury we have with our team is if you hit in the seventh hole, like Mike Lowell was last year, he was hitting seventh a bunch and he was at the top of the RBIs most of the year until the injuries.

“I think in this lineup it doesn’t matter where you hit,” added Youkilis. “If you have guys like Mike Cameron down at the bottom of the order,  you can drive in just as many runs as the guys hitting three and four. It just depends on how all the guys adapt to it, but I still think there’s a lot of thunder there.”

Bay’s replacement, Mike Cameron, had an average 17 points lower (.250) than Bay’s in 2009 and hit 24 homers to Bay’s 36, but Youkilis applauded the team’s direction in free agency and noted that a stronger pitching staff puts less pressure on an offense that has been considered a weakness since the Red Sox were swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

“I think we’ve got a great team,” Youkilis said. “Signing Mike Cameron was a good addition to the team. I don’t know who’s going to play where right now– I’m not the manager– but I think we have a good offense.”

“Picking up John Lackey was huge, where you don’t allow as many runs,” Youkilis added. “The offense doesn’t have to be as great when you have great pitching. Great pitching always wins championships. We’ve got six starting pitchers again, so if they all can stay healthy, who knows what’s going to happen?”

As for the looming possibility of Mike Lowell being out of the picture come April, Youkilis noted that players are commonly shopped in the final year of the contract and that he would be ready to enter 2010 as  either the team’s regular first or third baseman.

“Going into spring training, I get in shape just to play baseball,” Youkilis said. “I don’t get in shape for a position. I just take ground balls once I get there. There’s nothing I can do in the weight room that would be more beneficial for third or first, so I just go and do all the running and training and all the lifting that I can do just to try to be healthy all year.”

Youkilis, a third baseman by trade, started a career-high 56 games at the hot corner and 77 games at first base in 2009. Considering that he started 110 games at first a year prior, Youkilis felt the effects of constantly swtiching sides of the infield and expressed a desire to have a primary position in 2010.

“You definitely get a little more aches and pains moving back and forth,” Youkilis said. “For me last year, it worked out fine and I had a good season. I don’t think that’s the plan for me to switch back and forth like I did towards the end of the year.”

“For me, sticking at one spot would be nice,” Youkilis added. “That would be a cool thing. It probably won’t happen– I might have to play a little bit of first, I might have to play a little bit of third– but wherever they want me to play, we’ll see.”

The 2007 Gold Glove winner attributed much of his success to the fact that his natural position was occupied in 2006, his first full year in the majors. Now that the position may be freed, Youkilis is prepared to return to third.

“I got moved to first base when because Mike Lowell got traded over here, [Boston] got a Gold Glove third baseman,” Youkilis said. “I’ve always said I’m a third baseman playing first base, so I never lost that feeling of playing third base.”

The 30-year old had a fielding percentage of .974 at third base in the 2009, which would have led the American League had he qualified.

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