|In his first season at 1B, Kevin Youkilis didn't commit an error in 135 games, becoming the second player at the position with a 1.000 fielding percentage. (FILE/JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
It's a first: Youkilis has that golden touch
ORLANDO, Fla. - Having been around baseball virtually his entire life, Terry Francona understands the politics involved in winning a Gold Glove. A young player usually has to pay his dues for a couple of years before he breaks through the barriers established by the veteran players who win year in and year out based on both merit and reputation.
That's why the Red Sox manager was pleasantly surprised that his first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, was chosen as the American League's Gold Glover at the position yesterday.
"What an accomplishment for a kid in his first year at the position and for someone who didn't come up as a first baseman," Francona said. "He certainly deserves it. He's a testimony to hard work. I'll be damned. What a great job."
Youkilis certainly flashed the leather, not making an error until the playoffs. He was part of an excellent defensive infield, one helped by the work of coach Luis Alicea, who gets very little credit. Alicea helped Youkilis make the conversion to first, helped Dustin Pedroia in his first season as a major league second baseman (working with the rookie almost daily), and got Julio Lugo to reduce his errors and completely change his mechanics. The work of Mike Lowell speaks for itself.
Youkilis took grounders at first and third base all season, as he occasionally would have to spell Lowell. He came up as a third baseman but was confident in making the transition and always kept in mind how much a good-fielding first baseman can help the other infielders.
When the Sox first asked him to make the switch after acquiring Lowell, he said, "It was a little nerve-racking. I worked so hard at third base. But I thought it would be a little easier. To learn the position this year and to have a great year means so much. It gave me such a boost in confidence."
Youkilis is just the second Red Sox first baseman to win a Gold Glove, joining three-time recipient George Scott (1967, 1968, and 1971).
Youkilis set an AL record by playing 135 consecutive errorless games and became the first qualifying first baseman in AL history to compile a 1.000 fielding percentage. Youkilis handled 1,080 total chances.
Steve Garvey handled 1,319 errorless chances over 159 games in 1984 for the Padres - the only other qualifier with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
Youkilis's last regular-season error was July 4, 2006, at Tampa Bay, 190 games ago, also an AL record. He has handled 1,587 consecutive chances without an error, only three shy of Garvey's major league mark.
Youkilis was Boston's only Gold Glove winner, though many believed center fielder Coco Crisp might overcome the politics to win this year. Minnesota's Torii Hunter, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, and Cleveland's Grady Sizemore were the outfield winners.
Ortiz gets scopedDavid Ortiz had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee yesterday at Massachusetts General Hospital and should start next season healthy. Ortiz, who had cartilage damage, could have had the procedure last offseason but declined and had to play the entire '07 season in pain. He hit .332 with 35 home runs and 117 RBIs in 149 games. Dr. Thomas Gill performed yesterday's operation . . . Major League Baseball president/COO Bob DuPuy said last night that a Boston-Oakland series in Japan was closer to being officially announced, perhaps before the owners' meetings next week in Naples, Fla. DuPuy said there were logistical problems but the Players Association, the teams, and the Japanese sponsors all are on board for the series, which likely will be played March 22-23 in Tokyo.
They like MikeFrancona said he has talked to Lowell a few times since the season ended but is going to back off while negotiations unfold between the Sox and Lowell's agents, the Levinson brothers. "I'm going to let him breathe for a couple of days," Francona said. Francona, who was in Florida for a couple of days before returning to Boston yesterday, clearly wants Lowell to return. Curt Schilling also said in his blog that he hopes Lowell returns. Lowell was last seen on the Home Shopping Network Sunday selling a signed Red Sox jersey for $4,300 and a baseball for $3,000.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org