CHICAGO — Kevin Youkilis changed Sox last month, from Red to White, and made the move from Boston to Chicago, where he is again an everyday player.
And through the first week and a half with his new team, the change has been good for both him and the AL Central leaders.
Taking over at third base and batting second, Youkilis had 13 RBI and three homers in his first 12 games.
In his first homestand at U.S. Cellular Field, Youkilis has been hearing the familiar “Youk” cries that used to come down from Fenway Park during his successful run with the Red Sox. He had nineRBI, three homers and a game-winning homer and a game-winning single in his first five home games.
“Excited to be in first place. I think that’s the coolest thing about coming over here,” said the 33-yeear-old Youkilis, whose two-run homer was the only scoring in Saturday’s victory over Toronto.
“In this game you have to prove yourself until the day you retire. Every year there’s expectations to fulfill and sometimes you fall short of them and sometimes you exceed them so it’s part of the game. … I haven’t played up to my capabilities yet this year and hopefully in the second half I can.”
Since Youkilis joined the White Sox in a trade for Brent Lillibridge, Zach Stewart and cash considerations last month, Chicago has gone 9-3 in his first 12 games.
The White Sox are a season-best 10 games over .500 after Saturday’s win.
Youkilis helped the Red Sox win World Series championships in 2004 and 2007, but he started slowly this season and spent much of May on the DL with a sore back.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game during a television interview early in the season and apologized to him a day later.
Youkilis batted just .233 with four homers and 14 RBI in 146 at-bats for the Red Sox in 2012 and the emergence of Will Middlebrooks made him expendable.
The Boston experience – which featured an emotional standing ovation on his final day with the Red Sox – is over, Youkilis likes to say.
He’s already given the White Sox a much needed lift with both his bat and his glove at third base where projected started Brent Morel has been sidelined a good portion of the season by back problems. Veteran Orlando Hudson was acquired but couldn’t get comfortable at the position after years as a second baseman.
Youkilis has already made several sparkling plays at third, coming in barehanded or backing up and making a nice stop.
“Those plays he’s making at third, there’s none of those that he hasn’t made,” said Chicago manager Robin Ventura, who should know a thing or two about the position since he won six Gold Gloves there.
Youkilis, a Gold Glove winner himself at first base in 2007, gives the White Sox versatilty in the field and a No. 2 hitter who can both get on base, has power, can drive in runs and is known for grinding out at-bats.
“He has an energy he brings. The competitiveness he has. It’s infectious and it’s a good thing for our guys to see and a guy who has been a winner,” Ventura said.
“He doesn’t stand around and tell everybody about it. He leads by example.”
Blue Jays manager John Farrell had plenty of time to see Youkilis in the AL East and said the change has obviously been beneficial. At least at the outset.
“A very tough at-bat every time he comes to the plate. That’s a guy that’s never going to give an at-bat away. A strong competitor, and when he’s right offensively, he’s got extra-base power and the ability to hit good pitching,” Farrell said.