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Youkilis on D&H: Let’s talk offense

03.03.10 at 8:25 am ET
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Kevin Youkilis spoke with Dale & Holley Tuesday about the upcoming Red Sox season and turned some of the talk about the team’s defense into a discussion about the offensive part of things.

Youkilis shed a little light on his offseason training, some of the things he’s doing to get ready at the plate, and even an upcoming contest that will allow fans to decide what kind of facial hair he sports at the beginning of the season.

Last year, you had these workouts by 7, 7:30, training with Nick Punto was it?

Yeah, Nick is a neighbor of mine out there in Arizona, we drive down there everyday to work out. This year, I did not go out there, cut down on my traveling, stayed up in Boston, trained with Eric Cressey at Cressey Performance up in Hudson, and worked a lot with building the strength up, basically trying to get in the best possible playing shape coming into spring. It’s very hard to basically go out every day and try to get yourself in baseball shape, but as long as you try to get yourself in really good shape, do the certain little things that give you the best potential at staying strong for the whole year, that’s what we try to do and work on.

Improving the pitching and defense ‘€” how do you read it?

I’ll tell you what, we’ve focused a lot on the defense this year, everywhere you hear is defense, defense, defense, and I’ll tell you what, I think a lot of us are getting old in hearing about defense, because we like to talk about our offense, too. A lot of us, we only play the field so we can hit. We only try as hard as we can to play well in the field so we can hit, we don’t want to give up any extra outs and sit in the field, we want to go up there and have some good at bats and get some hits.

Do players ever talk about things fans talk about? Range factor on defense, on-base percentage, do players ever talk about these things?

No, we don’t. I’ve learned a lot about all different kind of stats we have going now. Some of them are just ridiculous, because if you break down all the stuff, you can find a negative and a positive in every single player. And that’s what I think they do, throw out so many different ones so every guy either looks really good or a little less down on the level playing field. So for me, the biggest thing is going out, winning ballgames, playing hard and doing the little things to help your team win ‘€” moving over a run, driving a guy in, getting a bunt down, playing defense well. You can’t worry about those little stats, at the end of the year they’re going to play themselves out you just have to go out there and focus, go pitch to pitch, you can’t worry about your stats or your OBP-R-T-S … H … S ‘€¦ I hope my OBPRTZ’s are good this year ‘€¦ but you can’t worry about that. I mean I joke around like, if a guy could have a triple and stops at second base, I’m like, his slugging percentage just went down, he could have had a triple and raised that up a little bit.

You’ve really focused on driving the ball and being more aggressive at the plate, is that fair to say?

I think there’s a stat out there somebody said that I swung less than I did the year before. Somebody in the media brought that to my attention, said that I swung less than I did the year before, so I don’t know if I’m more aggressive or if the pitches are different. For me, I go up there and I try to hit in situations and basically try to get a good fastball to hit in the zone and try not to let too many of those go by.

If you make the lineup card, where would Kevin Youkilis try to hit?

Right where I’m at is good ‘€” three, four, five, doesn’t really matter. I know we try to go the left/right thing, and the advantage we have with Victor in the heart of that lineup being a switch-hitter, but to me, if other guys are more comfortable in that spot, I’ll go hit somewhere else. It doesn’t matter to me. The greatest thing about playing for the Boston Red Sox is, two years ago when I made the All Star game, I was batting seventh. And I hit seventh in the All Star game too, which just shows how great of a lineup the Boston Red Sox have and the numbers and stats are high even at seventh. For us, we have a lot of great hitters, and it’s a good thing, it doesn’t matter where you hit, you have opportunities to drive in runs.

Does your approach change depending on where you’re hitting?

No. You can’t. You have to play the game in the situations. You go pitch to pitch, you have to focus. Hitting is so hard, and people don’t realize, you watch it on TV, and let me tell you, we watch ourselves on TV and we’re like ugh, how did we miss that pitch. It always looks a lot easier on TV, and for us, the big thing is it’s a very difficult thing, you have to go up there and focus on what you do best and work on your weaknesses in the batting cage. You can’t really do more than what you ‘€” there’s guys that hit home runs, there’s guys that are speedsters and they have to hit the ball on the ground ‘€” you can’t get out of your approach or what you do best or you’re going to find yourself failing more than succeeding.

What was your thought when you heard the Red Sox acquired John Lackey?

I definitely didn’t see that one coming, but it was a great thing to sign him. It’s always a good thing to have depth and pitching, pitching is definitely the key to winning championships. You saw last year with the Yankees they had three starters that pitched unbelievably well in the playoffs and that’s the whole key is try to have as much depth as you can in the pitching rotation, and last year we thought we had so much depth and little things happen here and there and guys get injured, and if our guys stay healthy we have a lot of good pitching there that can take us a long way.

Did you talk to former Yankees great Paul O’Neill about the offseason this year?

No, that was a few years back, I talk to Paul O’Neill about stuff and he said as you get older you hit less and less and work on being in better shape. And for me, the hitting will come. We come out here every single day, we only have one day off, you hit so much ‘€” you’re hitting every day and if you can’t figure it out by April 4, you’re in trouble. So for me, there’s a lot of things to work on, and I’ve slowly gotten into it and I feel good right now working on things. And it’s not a bad thing if you’re struggling right now. If you’re not getting hits now, they don’t count. If you’re trying to make the team, it’s a different story. But if you know you have a spot on the team, you’re trying to work on things, trying to see the ball at the plate. We all want to get hits, but bottom line is you just have to work and improve and get ready for that opening day.

Is spring training too long?

Yes. It gets a little long at the end. The last week, you’re so excited to start real games that mean something and play nine innings ‘€” it can be a little long. But that’s the way it’s set up, and you just have to get used to it.

What has Jose Iglesias shown you with the glove at shortstop?

He has unbelievable hands. A lot of guys think he looks like Omar Vizquel, which isn’t too bad of a player to emulate in that I’ve never seen anything like that in my life when Omar’s out there making plays. He’s very good defensively, his hands are ridiculously smooth and quick and he’s not going to be a guy that probably will hit you 20 some, 30 home runs, but he’s going to be a guy that’s going to go out there and make some plays at short that most guys can’t.

Anything good coming up for you this season off the field?

We have something that’s going to be coming out, I’ll let you guys know right now. We’re trying to get it right now where fans can come and vote online, and basically there’s four choices of facial hair that I will wear for the first week of the season. This is the first time I’ve talked about this, we’re trying to work on it and get it all in the works. It’s between a goatee, clean-shaven, Fu Manchu and a mustache, so we’re hoping the mustache thing doesn’t really get voted on that well but ‘€¦ I’m a little worried. It’s going to be fun, basically going to set it up so people vote online and donate money to the charity with the voting, hopefully raise a lot of money, and hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

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