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Slumping Youkilis dealing with a lot

By Nick Cafardo
June 16, 2012
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CHICAGO - Maybe the scouts are staying away.

Maybe they’re not convinced that Kevin Youkilis is the right man to revamp their lineup. The numbers will tell you that. The numbers usually don’t lie.

But they lied Friday.

Youkilis went 0 for 4, and shouldn’t have. You may be what your record says you are, to paraphrase Bill Parcells, but Youkilis hit the ball on the screws. He hit it where people were in position to catch it, and sometimes when you’re not going so good, that happens.

Sometimes you can look like garbage and have swings that look like you don’t belong in the majors. But when your swings are good and the ball is meeting the barrel of the bat and the results aren’t there . . .

“It’s just frustrating,’’ said Youkilis, after the Red Sox were defeated by the Cubs, 3-0. “You just have to keep swinging, but it’s frustrating.’’

Keep swinging. That seems to be the rallying cry in the Sox clubhouse these days. One game they score 10 runs, and the next game none. There are probably a lot of people wondering how the Sox, who have the most extra-base hits and second-most runs in baseball, can get shut out by the team with the worst record in the game.

Youkilis is too good to be hitting .212. He is 0 for 18 in his last six games, and 3 for his last 34. Is he aging quickly, breaking down? You can make a case for that, but give up on Youkilis and you may find you’ve made a mistake.

These aren’t easy times. The Red Sox have a young, up-and-coming third baseman in Will Middlebrooks who wants to be the everyday starter. Veterans usually lose their jobs to young players sooner or later, and that could be taking place very soon with the Red Sox.

While Youkilis comes off as a veteran always willing to help the youngsters, it’s human nature to feel that one of those youngsters is now a threat to unseat him. Youkilis, who won a Gold Glove at first base, had to swallow hard when then-general manager Theo Epstein asked him to move to third when the Sox were about to acquire Adrian Gonzalez.

Youkilis made the switch willingly, feeling third base was his natural position, and certainly the position he had played for most of his career. But with that move, he knew he had a starting job. And then there was talk in the offseason of possibly not re-signing David Ortiz, Youkilis possibly being the future designated hitter.

Except, the current DH is the best DH. And it appears the current DH will continue to be an offensive force, even through next season.

Youkilis is making $12 million this year, and has a $13 million option (with a $1 million buyout) for next season. It’s likely there won’t be a next season. Whether the Red Sox deal him soon or keep him for the rest of the season, the chances of them picking up his option are not good.

“I don’t buy that he’s declined to the point where he can’t help someone and can’t be a viable hitter for the Red Sox,’’ said a veteran scout at Friday’s game. “But he doesn’t show you enough right now that if I’m filing a report for my general manager to say, ‘OK, let’s go all out to get this guy because he can be the difference in our offense.’ He’s not doing that right now. You have the money involved and then you have to give up something substantial for him.

“He’s been an outstanding hitter in this league for a long time. But given some of the injuries, he’s got to show that he’s completely healthy and that he can still be the same hitter he was.’’

Teams are in search of righthanded-hitting corner infielders with track records. That’s because now more than ever, teams need righthanded hitting.

At one point, the Dodgers, Pirates, White Sox, Brewers, Giants, and Phillies had interest in Youkilis. It’s unknown which or if any are still viable trade options.

For some scouts to be staying away from Youkilis shows how badly things are going for him.

On Wednesday, Youkilis and manager Bobby Valentine met to discuss the trade talk. While the rumors have died down a bit, Valentine wanted to know Youkilis’s frame of mind. He also wanted to know if shifting from third to first was creating stress on his body.

After all, Youkilis has had major back issues. He’s had a bad hip. He missed a game this week after getting drilled in the ribs, and he couldn’t have felt that great Friday, even though he was moving around better.

While it looks at times that Youkilis is pressing, there are also times, such as Friday, when he looks to have his swing back. That’s the saving grace.

“It just seems like it keeps going on,’’ Youkilis said of his bad fortune. “You just have to keep swinging. You can’t dictate where the ball is going every time up. Hitting the ball is the name of the game as a hitter, but there’s not much you can do. Maybe get some voodoo or something.

“It’s been happening with a lot of our guys, not just me. We look at the final score and we have no runs and you just shake your head like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We hit the ball hard all day. It’s maddening because we can’t get anything up on the board.’’

While Youkilis brought up the word “frustrated,’’ he wouldn’t answer a question about his level of frustration. Youkilis is sick of the attention he’s getting as the guy who might get traded. He’s sick of being the guy who’s looked at as trying to save his Red Sox career.

Valentine runs him out there every day, at the expense of Middlebrooks, who has had to sit.

Either the Red Sox want Youkilis showcased so they can trade him, or they want him to get going and keep his spot as a hitter who wears down pitchers, grinds out at-bats, and gets on base and drives in runs.

That’s what Youkilis always has been. He has not been that guy lately.

But be careful if you think he never will be that again. Be very careful.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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