On his way back to Fenway, Kevin Youkilis took the high road.
Meeting with reporters Monday afternoon, hours before he was to play his first game Boston as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Youkils fondly recalled his career with the Red Sox and avoided any direct reference to his frosty relationship with manager Bobby Valentine.
"It's exciting to come back to the ballpark that I've known as home for a long time,'' said Youkilis. "I'm pretty excited to go out there and face some of my former teammates.''
Youkilis labeled his first three weeks in Chicago "great. I think the transition was easy because of the players and the coaching staff. They welcomed me. All the White Sox have been so great to me.''
Recalling his final game as a member of the Red Sox, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner in the seventh and got an emotional send-off from fans and teammates alike, Youkilis called it a "great day,'' and a tribute to Red Sox fans.
Looking back on the deal, Youkilis sensed that the Red Sox had decided to make rookie Will Middlebrooks their regular third baseman. Noting that he was blocked at first by Adrian Gonzalez and at DH by David Ortiz, Youkilis sensed it was time.
"There was either one or two moves to be made to relieve the logjam, and I was that move,'' said Youkilis, "because of contract issues and all different kinds of issues. That's just the bottom line. In the team's opinion, it was time for me to go.''
As best he could, Youkilis steered clear of any controversy.
"I don't understand why this is still a big rift,'' he said. "I'm just here to play baseball. There's no Bobby V. vs Kevin Youkilis or vice versa.
It's about the Chicago White Sox vs the Boston Red Sox and playing baseball.
"I'm just here to comment on this game today and going forward. Whatever happened in the past, there's been a lot of great moments, there's been a lot of down moments, and there's been a lot in-between. So I'm not going to
That's what it's all about. We're here to play baseball. We're not here to do anything else.''
But read between the lines and there were a few comments that alluded to the friction that existed between he and Valentine.
Asked if he no longer felt wanted by the Red Sox before the deal was made, Youkilis said:
"I think the players were great to me, a lot of people were great to me.''
The use of the word "players'' doesn't seem accidental, intimating that while teammates were behind him, the manager wasn't.
He also couldn't help but note "it's definitely fun to know when you're playing. There's not added things going around. I know everyday, I'm playing.
If I'm not playing, Robin will come to me....He's pretty good with communication.''
Youkilis was one of the players taken aback by Valentine's policy of not informing players
the night before they were out of the lineup. It first happened in the third game of the season in Detroit.
He cited "less drama'' in Chicago than in Boston, which he partly attributed to the smaller number of reporters who cover the White Sox.
"It's fun,'' he said. "We have a lot of fun. Not to say we didn't have a lot of fun when I was (in Boston). But it's just a different entity in the Midwest, I guess.''
He vowed to maintain ties to Boston, where some good friends reside and where he still operates a charity.