Heading into his first series at Fenway Park since being traded, Kevin Youkilis told White Sox reporters on Sunday that he was "over" any Red Sox controversies from this season.
Privately, though, he was probably shaking his shaved head over Bobby Valentine's recent assertion that Youkilis was responsible for any friction between the two parties.
"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.
Valentine added that his relationship with Youkilis was "whatever he wanted it to be.''
So, Youkilis is responsible for something Valentine said. Got it.
Back in April, Valentine told a reporter that Youkilis was not "physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason." Youkilis responded angrily, it was reported, and said he was "confused more than anything, because I think everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can." From that point on, the Red Sox were on a track to trade one of their more popular players.
For the moment, Youkilis says he's "got nothin' " about Bobby V, though he did write a nice love letter to Boston and its fans on Sunday, thanking everyone except for the current manager, seemingly. We'll see what Youkilis says Monday night in Boston assuming that Red Sox reporters corner him in front of the Dunkin Donuts interrogation wall. And if Youkilis comes over to the home clubhouse, will Josh Beckett excuse himself because he thinks the fried chicken-and-beer snitch walks among the Red Sox?
Here's a guess: Youkilis probably can't wait for this series to come and go. At least Monday night. Or at least Monday night's pregame circus. Because he's been on a roll with his new team.
In 73 plate appearances since coming to the White Sox, Youkilis has performed at a .295/.397/.475 clip, which almost mirrors his career averages (.287/.388/.487). He's also been good-to-great at third base. Youk's line with the Red Sox this season — .233/.315/.377, with four homers in 165 plate appearances — made him appear washed up at 33 years old. So, whatever was bothering him earlier in the season, Valentine couldn't extract it.
Giving him some credit, Valentine opening his mouth again on Youkilis might actually serve the Red Sox well here, at least for this series. The breakup with Youkilis is already out there, so he might as well try to overload the situation by fanning the flames. Is there any way Youkilis can focus on playing baseball in such a glass case of emotion? Then again, Carlton Fisk managed to handle it in 1981 on his return to Fenway, hitting a go-ahead home run on opening day.
Not that any booing is expected, but since Boston fans are noted for shouting "Yoooouk," there will be no way to tell even if it happens.