Could Kevin Youkilis be on the verge of making Gold Glove history?
|03.18.11 at 12:27 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. – While many were focusing on Marco Scutaro’s fine play in the field during the Red Sox’ spring training game against the Braves Wednesday, lost was another exceptional moment with the glove.
Kevin Youkilis dove to his left, scooped up Martin Prado’s grounder, and threw out the Atlanta baserunner. Great play. Few noticed.
The relative silence regarding Youkilis’ performance at third base wasn’t hard to figure out. People had seen him play a solid 219 major-league games at the position, so expectations were already set.
It might be time to amp up those expectations.
The question is this: Can Youkilis become the first player since Darin Erstad to win a Gold Glove at two separate positions?
“I don’t see why not,” said Red Sox third base/infield coach Tim Bogar. “He did it on the other side of the field. In my mind, the one thing is throwing for the whole season, and he’s been fine with it this spring. That just comes with using his lower half, and he’s done that this spring.”
Youkilis does have his Gold Glove, winning the award in 2007 for his work at first base. And few are going to doubt his abilities when it comes to that side of the diamond, where in 575 games he totaled a .997 fielding percentage (making just 13 errors).
But even though his time at third base has been sporadic throughout the past few years, his fielding percentage at the position is better than two-time Gold Glove-winner David Wright’s number since ’05.
“His footwork has improved tremendously,” Bogar said. “The more he is over there the more his mind opens up to what he needs to do. Seeing the ball off the bat with angles. The more he sees the more it comes back to him. His reactions are getting a lot better.”
Moving over to accommodate a guy (Adrian Gonzalez) who has won two Gold Gloves certainly helps the equation. But what really might be the biggest difference-maker is the fact that Youkilis has always seen himself as a third baseman.
And now, he believes he is returning to his natural habitat better than ever.
“Yeah because you’re much more mature and you don’t let the little stuff get to you as much,” explained Youkilis as to why he has improved from the last time he played third regularly. “That’s probably the biggest thing. Athletically you might go down a little bit, but you just don’t sweat the small stuff as much. Guys as they get older get better at their position because they have that confidence to do it.”
So, with Youkilis having placed himself in the conversation regarding Gold Glove candidacy, what now stands in his way? Most notably, the two-time reigning winner of the award in the American League, Evan Longoria.
Statistically, it would seem Youkilis could overcome Longoria. The Tampa Bay infielder has a combined .968 fielding percentage in the past two seasons, almost identical to Youkilis’ total at the position since ’05.
But, as has been well-documented, the Gold Glove is a tough nut to crack if you haven’t previously joined the club at each specific position. And not only would Longoria have to be unseated, but old friend — and two-time winner — Adrian Beltre is in Texas, while the allure of handing it to Alex Rodriguez (who has a better fielding percentage than Longoria over the past two seasons) is always out there.
“It’s never a goal,” said Youkilis said when asked about the award. “I never expected to win one before and I did. But there are a lot of good third baseman out there.”
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