Youkilis to bat leadoff in Thursday's game

Youkilis to bat leadoff in Thursday's game
March 15, 2012, 5:28 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine has shown a willingness to experiment with lineups, and Thursday's lineup is an example of that, with third baseman Kevin Youkilis serving as the Red Sox' leadoff hitter.

Valentine was asked whether he could envision have Youkilis hit first during the regular season.

"I don't want to rule anything out," said Valentine. "But probably not. That's more on the idea of getting him a couple of quick at-bats."

Valentine has a history of using non-traditional leadoff hitters over his major league career. He had Benny Agbayani with the New York Mets and catcher-turned-DH Brian Downing in Texas.

"Downing is the best leadoff hitter I ever had," said Valentine.

He recounted spring training in 1991, when the Rangers lured Downing, 40, out of retirement to serve as the club's leadoff man.

With about a week's worth of Grapefruit League games, Downing went on to compile a .377 on-base percentage in 1991 and .407 in 1992 before retiring.

"I had a lot of guys who could hit (with the Rangers)," recounted Valentine. "Young guys -- Ruben (Sierra), Juan (Gonzalez) -- and none of them could quite take a pitch. None of them understood the value."

As for Youkilis, Valentine termed him a "very productive hitter," but noted Boston's lack of "other righthanded hitters" in the lineup as a reason not to use Youkilis at the top.

Indeed, many of the Sox' best hitters are lefthanded, including David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford.

Youkilis is hardly a speedy runner, but Valentine said that part of a player's game is overrated when it comes to being at the top of the lineup.
"My opinion is," he said, "if you have guys who can't run (well), and can get on, they should be on before guys who can hit it over the fence because then we don't ask them to run; they're allowed to
trot.

"Guys who can't run at the bottom of the lineup with guys who don't hit it over the fence cause a problem in scoring the run, which is the ultimate concern. (Slow guys at the top) clogging the bases? I get that one. But again, it's easier to run around the bases when it's an extra-base hit instead of singles."

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