Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kevin Youkilis aids in win before being traded

Kevin Youkilis aids in win before being traded

It had been evident for several days that the Red Sox were planning to trade Kevin Youkilis. But when the sun came up Sunday and he was still on the roster, general manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine decided Youkilis would play against the Atlanta Braves.

wanted to give David Ortiz a day off and that opened a spot for Youkilis against Atlanta lefthander Mike Minor.

“Bobby felt like he could help us win a game,’’ Cherington said. “That’s the idea, to win the game.’’

In the end, it worked to perfection. Youkilis contributed to a 9-4 victory against the Braves and before the game was over had been traded to the Chicago White Sox.

“A crazy day,’’ said Cody Ross, who drove in five runs with a pair of home runs to left field. “But it probably worked out pretty well for everybody involved.’’

The spontaneity couldn’t be beat. As the trade was about to be consummated, Youkilis was due up in the seventh inning and Cherington sent word to Valentine to get the third baseman out of the game.

Valentine told the players in the dugout what was going on as Youkilis went to the plate. With two outs and a runner on first, Youkilis hit what looked like a routine fly ball to right-center. But center fielder Michael Bourn and right fielder Jason Heyward each thought the other had it and the ball fell between them. Youkilis, running hard in his last steps as a member of the Red Sox, slid in with a gift triple.

Nick Punto, who was going to replace Youkilis either on the bases or in the field before the next inning, was rooting for the ball to drop.

“Oh, my. You have no idea,’’ said Punto, one of Youkilis’s better friends in the game. “It’s a lot better when you get an RBI triple.’’

Youkilis hugged Punto as their paths crossed, then he saluted the wildly cheering crowd of 37,565. After being engulfed by his teammates in the dugout, Youkilis took a curtain call at the urging of Valentine, two men who didn’t get along very well the last few months finally agreeing on something.

With that, Youkilis went down the small tunnel and up the stairs to the clubhouse. The nameplate above his locker was gone by the time the game was over.

For all the emotion on the field and in the stands - and there was plenty - the business of baseball went on. On the day Youkilis was traded, the reasons he had to go were evident.

Adrian Gonzalez, now the full-time first baseman, was 2 for 3 with a walk and a home run. With Youkilis off the roster, Gonzalez won’t be playing right field any more.

Gonzalez hit .254 with a .648 OPS in 18 games as a right fielder. In his last five games, all at first base, he is 7 for 20 with three walks. Returning full time to his regular position could be what gets Gonzalez going offensively.