ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine placed the onus for his strained relationship with Kevin Youkilis on the former Sox infielder Sunday morning.
“I think the comment I made early, he made a big issue out of, and I don’t think he ever wanted to get over it,’’ Valentine said in response to a question about Youkilis, who will return to Fenway Park on Monday as a member of the Chicago White Sox, the team to which he was traded on June 24.
Valentine was alluding to a comment he made to WHDH-TV’s Joe Amorosino on April 15. "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Valentine said at the time.
Youkilis responded angrily the next day, meeting with both Valentine and GM Ben Cherington.
"I'm more confused than anything, because I think everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can," Youkilis said at the time.
But it was obvious that the relationship never healed. Strained?
“I have no idea,’’ Valentine said. “It was whatever he wanted it to be.’’
Valentine strongly disputed that he had any problem with Youkilis in spring training, though he acknowledged he was aware that some teammates had issues with Youkilis.
“Yeah, I was aware of that,’’ Valentine said.
Did he have concerns that it could morph into a bigger problem?
“Don’t know,’’ he said. “What’d you think? I inherited that situation. I didn’t cause it.’’
When asked in April by ESPN Boston if pitcher Josh Beckett had accused him of being a “snitch” -- being the source of the “fried chicken and beer” expose in the Boston Globe -- Youkilis didn’t deny it.
"There were tons of things going around where guys had questions," Youkilis said.
Valentine, asked if he was aware that Youkilis had been accused of being a snitch, gave a vague response.
“I don’t know if I heard any of that stuff,’’ he said.
But he blasted the notion that he and Youkilis had a falling-out in spring training.
“I think that’s a joke,’’ he said. “I wasn’t here last year. There was no friction in spring training, so I think that’s a joke. I’ll take that.’’
Youkilis has flourished with the White Sox since his trade. He came into play Sunday with a batting line of .316/.412/ .509/ .921, with 3 home runs and 15 RBIs, and has had either a game-winning hit or sacrifice fly in 5 of the 15 games in which he has played. In 42 games with Boston, he was batting .233 and had just 14 RBIs.
“I haven’t seen him play,’’ Valentine said. “He’s gotten a lot of hits, played a lot of games. It seems like he’s healthier.’’
Asked if he was surprised that Youkilis appeared healthier, Valentine said: “Not surprised. As a matter of fact, Maggs (hitting coach Dave Magadan) said he had no doubt if [Youkilis] went somewhere else he’d play better.’’