Youkilis ready to make the switch


Youkilis ready to make the switch

By SeanMcAdam

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kevin Youkilis will turn 32 in a couple of weeks, an age at which most players beginning to transition from other positions to first base.

But this spring, Youkilis is going the other way. After playing first base for most of the last five seasons, Youkilis is heading to third base to accommodate the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez at first.

Youkilis, however, says that his adopted position is not as low maintenance as it might seem to the uninitiated.

"I think first base is demanding in a lot of ways, too,'' said Youkilis Tuesday morning before the first day of pitchers' and catchers' scheduled workouts. "People don't understand how much wear and tear the body takes when you're holding on runners, allways shuffling, every time a ground ball is hit you have to run to first base. At third base, there are games when you don't get a ball hit to you.

"First base is kind of overlooked in terms of the demands of the position -- if you play it well. And the good thing is, the older you get, the more comfortable you get with your fielding. I'm more comfortable now than I was at 24, or 25 at third base. Actually, with old age, it might be a blessing.''

The position switch is really no big deal, Youkilis insisted.

"I've been a third baseman for all my life and played third base at the major-league level quite a few times,'' said Youkilis. "For me, it's just about going out there and taking ground balls and getting used to all the little things that come with playing third base. Spring training is a good time to allow you to take a lot of reps and get it down. It's a little better than coming in in the middle of the season.''

Of course, there are differences between the corner infield spots and it will take some time for Youkilis to feel fully comfortable again at his old position.

"You have to charge the ball a little more,'' he said. "But you get used to that right away. It comes to you naturally when you play the position that you can't sit back. When you're playing first base, you kind of get a little lazy; whereas at third base, you're prepared.''

One area that could require a refresher course is the variety of arm angles from which a third baseman throws across the infield.

"It doesn't matter if you throw it underhand or over the top,'' he said. "As long as that bal gets to first base before the runner hits that bag, it doesn't really matter. But there are certain angles -- running in, barehanding a ball, you're going to throw underneath; charging a ball, you're going to throwa little sidearm; when you backhand a ball, you're going to come staight overthe top to fire -- you have to work on. Arm angles are probably the biggest thing you have to work on."

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.