From Comcast SportsNetTAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Teammates of Kevin Youkilis were waiting to razz him when the third baseman walked into the New York Yankees clubhouse on Friday.Youkilis made the back page of two New York tabloids for telling reporters at his first day of spring training that "I'll always be a Red Sox.""I was basically defining that, as a player, I'll be a Red Sox, and a White Sox, and a Yankee for life," Youkilis said Friday. "Three storied franchises. I'm excited to be part of this, and be with the Yankees."Trust me, there's no way that was meant to say my heart is in Boston or anything like that. My heart is here with the Yankees."After spending 8 12 years in Boston and winning a pair of World Series titles, Youkilis was traded from the Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox last June. He signed with the Yankees in December.Youkilis admitted the comment "by itself looks terrible.""I've got to watch what I say," Youkilis said. "It hit me hard."Youkilis took part in his first workout with the Yankees on Thursday after flying from California to Tampa."I think guys are having fun with it, joking around," Youkilis said.Yankees manager Joe Girardi got a big smile when asked about his new infielder getting so much recognition early on with the team.The manager joked that Youkilis maybe missed the Yankees' media training session"I talked to him and I saw his comment," Girardi said. "You just can't erase eight years of anyone's life, that's the bottom line. I know he's happy to be here, and I know he's going to bring it everyday. I didn't have a problem with what he said."A three-time All-Star, Youkilis figures to be the Yankees' starting third baseman for at least the first half of the season while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. Youkilis agreed to a 12 million, one-year contract.Youkilis also made headlines during the offseason with Yankees' pitcher Joba Chamberlain. The two had feuded in the past over high-and-tight fastballs.After Youkilis agreed to join the Yankees, the reliever left him a voice mail. Chamberlain said in January he had not heard back, then revealed this month he had received a text.The pair got together Friday before workouts for New York's pitchers and catchers. Both feel the matter got blown out of proportion."Everything's good," Youkilis said. "We are all teammates here."Chamberlain downplayed the feud."He just came over and said hello, and I welcomed him," Chamberlain said. "Like I told you all before, it's done now. I hope we don't have to talk about this anymore. It's over with. We don't live in the past. We live in the present."New York will host the Red Sox in the regular-season opener at Yankee Stadium on April 1."I'm excited to play against them opening day," Youkilis said. "I'm excited to put on the pinstripes, the full pinstripes."Youkilis joins Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon as Boston players who made the switch to the Bronx."We've had other Red Sox players that have walked in here and done well, and our fans really warmed up to them," Girardi said. "I think Youk's going to be the same kind of guy."NOTES:New York's position players are scheduled to report Sunday. ... RHP Michael Pineda (shoulder surgery) threw 25 pitches in his second bullpen session. He is expected to be out until at least June. ... Left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral (left elbow fracture) is throwing off a mound and could be ready to pitch in minor league games after the team breaks camp at the end of next month.
FOXBORO -- Jamie Collins and the Cleveland Browns are reportedly closing in on a contract that will turn the ex-Pat's place of exile into his long-term place of work.
That's interesting in itself. The Browns must have made it clear to Collins he was getting franchised, otherwise you'd think Collins would want to get out there and test the market for at least a couple of days when free agency rolled around.
It will also be interesting for Collins' former teammate in New England, Dont'a Hightower. While the Patriots aren't going to let the Browns dictate their market and offers when it comes to negotiating with Hightower, Collins' contract will be a useful comp for Hightower.
Whatever Collins gets, Hightower can make the case for a fair amount more. Hightower is the centerpiece of the Patriots defense, a run-stopper, blitzer, leader and tone-setter. From the jersey number (Tedy Bruschi's old number 54) they encouraged him to wear, to selecting him captain, the team and Hightower's teammates have stated how important he is to the club.
Hightower on the open market would be in line for a contract in the $10 million-per-year range, with a total value of around $50 million (using Luke Kuechly, Navarro Bowman, Bobby Wagner and Lawrence Timmons as comparable players). The Patriots can franchise Hightower just as easily as the Browns could have franchised Collins. The sticking point for the player is that he doesn't realize the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal. The injury Sword of Damocles dangles every day.
In other words, Collins' influence on the Patriots isn't done yet.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while simply skating my lane today.
*A terrific piece on Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell getting on with his life after an MS diagnosis, and pushing to see if he can return to the ice.
*If the New York Islanders botch the hirings for people guiding the franchise, then John Tavares could be one of the next figures gone from Brooklyn.
*It’s been a rough go of it for St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen over the past few weeks and that continued on Thursday night.
*Top NHL Draft prospect Nolan Patrick’s value comes from his two-way play, and that’s what teams are focused on rather than the injury issues.
*Mike Babcock talks a wide range of subjects with James Duthie during a 1-on-1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.
*In his never-ending odyssey on the fringes of the NHL, Seth Griffith has been claimed by the Maple Leafs on waivers for the second time.
*Veteran forward Clarke MacArthur won’t be playing this season for the Ottawa Senators amid his concussion issues.
*For something completely different: Bill Belichick just being Bill Belichick at his press conference on Friday and that’s something we can all be reassured about.