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Youkilis looking for Sox from Bengals

Posted Mar 30, 2012


Kevin Youkilis

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kevin Youkilis is going to read this.

Well, maybe not this. But he'll come here wondering about Terence Newman and checking up on Manny Lawson. And he'll go to Joe Reedy over at Cincinnati.com and punch up Mike Florio's gang at profootballtalk.com and barehand any Bengals news as if it is crawling up the third-base line.

"They signed that safety that's going to be a cornerback, right? I'm up to date. I saw all the (signings) last night," says Youkilis, who knows Jason Allen as well as his backups on the depth chart. "I saw (Anthony) Collins signed. That's good. They need to get the interior and then work their way out."

It is a Saturday and the sun is hotter than Roger Goodell's collar. We are sitting in the Red Sox dugout here at what is known as Fenway Park South, where the ghosts of '78 and '86 wear sunscreen instead of chains, and Kevin Edmund Youkilis could be sitting on The Banks at the Holy Grail talking about his hometown team.

It is about two hours before the Sox and the Phillies play an exhibition game set to be beamed back to The Nation, and because these are The Sox any and all news is radioactive. Today it is the NESN debut of new reporter Jenny Dell that is the talk of Farmington to Framingham.

Youkilis has just finished hitting with the top of the order, a group that includes lithe leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury, stately cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez, and the rugrat MVP of a second baseman Dustin Pedroia. As the sweat glistens from New England's most famous bald pate since John Quincy Adams, Youkilis never minds talking Bengals.

"They've had a good young defense and all that, so it was good to see them add a good young quarterback and A.J. Green is going to be a star for years," he says.

This is the guy who went ballistic when he copped a signed David Fulcher jersey a few years back at a Boston fundraiser. This is the guy who reportedly went off in a fan's anger while watching Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton return a Carson Palmer pick for a touchdown in the 2010 opener beamed from Foxboro into the visiting locker room in Oakland. This is the guy who came down to Paul Brown Stadium the day before a Bengals game in '08 and brought his dad while they mingled as guests on the field.

The man who has personified major-league baseball's conversion to digital in the first decade of the 21st century as the "Greek God of Walks," grew up on Boomer Esiason's yards per attempt in Sycamore Township.

"One of the Pro Bowlers this year; Geno Atkins I'd have to say," Youkilis decides briefly when asked who has caught his eye the most among these new Bengals. "An undersized defensive tackle that has shown a lot of upside. It's always cool to see guys like that. Kind of undersized, kind of overlooked."

Like say, Kevin Youkilis, out of Sycamore High School, the University of Cincinnati, and the eighth round of the 2001 draft?

"Maybe a little overlooked," Youkilis says with a slight smile.

No more. Take a look at the all-time Red Sox leaders and Youkilis is climbing with 911 games played. If he plays his average 133 games since 2006 he'll pass such notable Beantowners as Johnny Pesky and Reggie Smith, and he's already played more than Fred Lynn and Jimmy Foxx. And that god-like .391 OBP is better than those of Dom DiMaggio, David Ortiz and Carl Michael Yastrzemski.

Nothing has changed and everything has changed. Bobby Valentine may be the new manager, but the Sox don't need an extra minicamp like new head coaches in the NFL.

"Football is a lot different; it's not like we have different plays," Youkilis says. "Everybody has the same plays in baseball. We don't have a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. In baseball everybody has the steal, the bunt, the hit-and-run. It's just when do you call them?"

He laughs. Yes, he knows there is a Youkilis-to-Reds trade every other day. Especially with the Sox in this spring of transition with a new GM and a new manager and the club holding the option next year for a corner infielder turning 34 next March.

"I'd like to end my career in Boston, but I know it has to work both ways," Youkilis says. "I just love to play baseball no matter where it is."

No, Youkilis doesn't give you much on the Sox. Probably a good rule of thumb in that media cauldron of the Hub. In this first spring after BeerGate and WingGate, he says the Sox aren't feeling any special heat.

"All we need to do is win. That's about it. We'll be fine. There's no (outside) pressure. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves," Youkilis says. "It doesn't matter. For us, we just have to go out and play the way we can and just win ballgames. This team knows how to win. It has done it for a while. We're going to do it again. The biggest thing for us is staying healthy."

Youkilis knows all about injuries. They've limited him to 102 and 120 games the past two seasons. It's why he says the Bengals should draft a running back even though they just signed New England's own BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

And he suggests a fellow UC product.

"I'd love to see Isaiah Pead as a Bengal. He can be a third-down back, he'd be awesome," Youkilis says. "He's a versatile player. I think he'll be good in the NFL."

But Youkilis also brings an endorsement for BJGE from a pretty good source. Yet like most Bengals fans, he also appreciates the hard running Cedric Benson gave the Bengals for four seasons as he moves on.

"Tom (Brady) can make any running back look good," Youkilis says of his future brother-in-law. "(BJGE) is a good running back. He doesn't give away the ball. He's a hard runner like Cedric, who I hope does real well wherever he goes."

Asked when he and Brady's sister are getting married Youkilis says politely, "Don't ask me about my personal life. Ask me about the Red Sox and Bengals."

OK and he won't get off the running backs. He's looking for big things from Bernard Scott.

"I don't know if there were injuries or what, but it didn't seem like Bernard was running as hard as he has in the past," Youkilis says. "But if he's back to running with a purpose again, he's going to be great."

But things have changed since the debacle to open the '10 season in New England and Youkilis likes what the Bengals have done since. He salutes them for the two-for-one ticket push that filled up the house for the regular-season finale and he thinks they’ve got enough that they can load up on guards and safeties in the draft.

"I'm a big interior guy," Youkilis says. "I think they’ve got a lot of the right guys, but they also need a couple of guards and a hard-hitting safety. Somebody that's going to lay down a little thunder on somebody. "

Spoken like a true Fulcher fan.

It turns out The Greek God of Walks worships at the Bengaldom shrine of hit-and-run.

 

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