|Adam Dunn: ‘Change of scenery obviously kind of helped’ Kevin Youkilis||07.09.12 at 3:40 pm ET|
KANSAS CITY — The Red Sox didn’t have much choice but to trade Kevin Youkilis. Will Middlebrooks — before his hamstring injury — had shown enough that he deserved an opportunity to play in the big leagues everyday. Meanwhile, it was untenable to keep Youkilis in Boston as a part-timer, with the necessary lineup shuffling of Youkilis at first and third, Adrian Gonzalez at first and in right and Middlebrooks at third and on the bench, to continue with the roster logjam.
And so, the Red Sox parted with the struggling veteran in exchange for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart, a utility infielder and a pitcher who offered some depth to the rotation. But while Youkilis had become an awkward spare part with the Red Sox, he’s quickly become an essential contributor with the White Sox. In 13 games since the June 24 trade, Youkilis is hitting .347 with a .418 OBP, .571 slugging mark and .990 OPS along with three homers — numbers roughly in line with his performance over his 2008-10 peak, when he hit .308/.404/.560/.964 as one of the best American League hitters for the Red Sox.
The White Sox understand that circumstances likely necessitated his departure from Boston. And they are immensely grateful for that development.
“I don’t know what happened in Boston — injuries, I know he was in and out of the lineup, I think every player in his career, whether it’s early, middle or late, kind of gets caught in that. As a White Sox, we don’t even care. We’re just happy we got him now, happy to have him because he’s come right over and done well right away,” said first baseman Paul Konerko, who is at the All-Star Game. “The biggest thing is he’s really good. Adding him at third, his bat to the lineup, just his production and what he does physically out there is the biggest thing. Obviously, he’s played in Boston, he’s a world champion, his grittiness and how he wants to go play the game everyday, that can only be good for the clubhouse. It’s already rubbing off, already showing and it’s only been two weeks, not even. But mainly he’s just a really good player.”
Fellow White Sox masher Adam Dunn suggested that Youkilis has very much been the same player who developed a reputation as one of the most tenacious hitters in the game.
“He’s done everything right and he’s done everything he can possibly do. Having great at-bats, getting on base, driving in all our runs, playing good defense. He’s been everything. He’s been really, really good,” said Dunn. “A guy like him, you don’t forget how to hit. You don’t forget how to get on base. You don’t forget how to have good at-bats. I think the change of scenery obviously kind of helped him a little bit.”
The White Sox do sense that a weight has been lifted from Youkilis, and that they are benefiting from a player who immediately achieved a sense of comfort in his new environment.
“I sense that anybody who plays in Boston or New York, when they go anywhere else, it’s easier,” said Konerko. “Any time I’ve played with a guy who’s been in one of those spots, it’s just a tougher place to play over there. Chicago’s not a picnic either, but compared to those places, those are the worst in terms of everything being under a microscope and just being very, very tough when you aren’t doing well or when things aren’t going exactly as planned.”
The White Sox are now 9-4 since the deal; the Red Sox are 5-9. It would be hindsight to suggest that trading Youkilis was a mistake — at the time, sentiment was virtually universal that a trade was in the best interests of all parties — but the absence of Middlebrooks’ right-handed thump, first via a slump and then due to injury, has made the absence of the longtime Red Sox corner infielder and three-time All-Star more dramatic.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s players are delighted with everything about the acquisition of the 33-year-old, who has been a significant contributor to the team’s first-place standing in the AL Central.
“Youk, being on the field, healthy, I don’t think anyone would doubt that he was going to do well,” said Konerko. “I think that’s the way the White Sox looked at it. Is he healthy? If the answer is yes and he can play, you’re going to get good things out of him. That’s all he’s ever done since he’s been in the big leagues. There’s no reason to think otherwise and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
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