A newly clean-shaven Youkilis made his first appearance in Yankees camp on Thursday, going straight from a red-eye flight from his home in San Jose, Calif., to the batting cage at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
After batting practice, Youkilis made a sweep through the Yankees’ clubhouse, where he greeted a few of his new teammates — but not Joba Chamberlain — and had a brief chat with manager Joe Girardi.
But although Youkilis, who signed a one-year, $12 million contract in December, said he looks forward to “an enjoyable season” in New York, his heart still belongs to rival Boston, where he spent his first 8½ seasons in the majors.
“I’ll always be a Red Sock,” Youkilis said. “To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox, and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house and to say I’d just throw it out the window, it’s not true.
“Those were great years in Boston. One bad half-year doesn’t take away from all the great years I had there.”
The signing of the 33-year-old Youkilis, who batted a career-low .235 last year while splitting time between the Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, became a necessity when Rodriguez underwent hip surgery that is expected to sideline him at least until the All-Star break.
While Youkilis is being relied upon to play Rodriguez’s position, he cautioned against expectations that he will replace the three-time MVP’s production in the lineup.
“I don’t think you look at it like that,” Youkilis said. “You can’t be thinking about shoes to fill, because I’ll never be Alex Rodriguez. I mean, Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all time. I’m not going to be that same guy. But I can be a good major league player who can help the team win.”
Youkilis’ brief swing through the clubhouse took him to the opposite side of the room from where Chamberlain was sitting at his locker. Youkilis and Chamberlain famously feuded during the third baseman’s time in Boston.
Although Chamberlain said the two have exchanged text messages, they have yet to speak face-to-face.
“You guys have written a lot about it, but we’re here in spring training as a team and ready to play,” Chamberlain said. “At some time, we’ll all sit down and talk. I think it’s all going to be OK.”