Kevin Youkilis has played 97 games in the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry during his career. Yet on Opening Day, something will be a little different for the 34-year-old.
Youkilis will suit up in Yankees pinstripes for the first time, having signed a one-year, $12 million deal with New York this winter to fill in for Alex Rodriguez, who will miss at least half the season following hip surgery.
The game will mark Youkilis' first home game in New York, presenting an opportunity few ever envisioned: the Bronx crowd screaming "Yooooooooouk!" instead of "Booooo!" in the third baseman's direction.
"I just go out there and play," Youkilis said when asked what type of reception he's expecting. "I can't tell if they're screaming 'Youk' or 'Boo' half the time anyway. There's always going to be fans that say stuff to you when you don't make a play or you get a big hit. Some people are a little bit of a roller-coaster ride. That's just how it is in life.
"It's going to be fun, it's going to be fun going to Yankee Stadium. The fans, before, there was a lot more hatred, and hopefully now there'll be a lot more excitement. It'll be good. I've got my family in town; they're excited.
"This year's a new beginning, full of new opportunities, and hopefully great things will happen in the end."
Youkilis had a solid spring, hitting .280/.339/.800 with a team-leading six home runs and 14 RBI in 18 games. He's expected to open the season hitting fourth behind Robinson Cano, doing his part to make up for the absence of Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez during the first weeks of the season.
"We have a lot of guys that are hurting right now, but sometimes it's better in the beginning to have the injuries rather than later," Youkilis said. "Hopefully we go through our injury problems in February, March and April, and then be healthy the rest of the year."
Youkilis is slated to be the Yankees' everyday third baseman -- except when he's playing first base. With Lyle Overbay joining the team during the final week of camp, the Yankees are expected to use Overbay against right-handers, then shift Youkilis across the diamond to first base against lefties, slotting Jayson Nix in at third.
Youkilis, who has played more games at first (607) than third (442) during his career, said he's ready to do whatever the Yankees ask him over the course of the season. When you factor in the loss of Jeter and Teixeira to start the season, the Yankees' infield could have a different look on a weekly basis during the early months.
"I've gone through more infields than you've ever known," Youkilis said. "I think we had a different shortstop every year, and a different third baseman, or I played third. It's part of baseball, it's the way it works. There's a lot of turnover in sports. ... Turnover is a big thing now. So you just get used to it, go out and do your job. It's the same game no matter where you play. You've got to treat it like it's the same game and prepare the same way, and I think our guys do a good job of doing that."