FORT MYERS, Fla. — There may be a little more hop in the step of Kevin Youkilis this spring. Much of it has to do with the fact that he knows he will be playing third base this season after five years as the primary first baseman for the Red Sox.
As great as Youkilis has been at first, the hot corner has always been a comforting place for the 31-year-old. He is hopeful that his return to third can bring out the best in him.
"It would be cool to play just as well at third base, try to win a Gold Glove," said Youkilis, who won the award as a first baseman in 2007. "It would be cool if I could play at a high level and try to win a Gold Glove at third base and first base. But for me, it's not about the accolades, I'm just worried about making the routine plays and trying to make a couple of great plays here and there to help our pitchers get out of jams."
One other aspect of the move that has Youkilis smiling is the fact that he won't need to socialize with runners who reach base. Not that he is averse to carrying a conversation, he just would rather not have to do so in the middle of a game.
Such chattiness is better served for guys like Sean Casey, Jim Thome and Kevin Millar, Youkilis said. At third base, he can focus on just playing his position and not how an opponent's kids are doing in school.
"It's just not interesting," he said of the social scene at first base. "It's fun sometimes if you have guys you know or have played against. There are some guys you might not care for too much. … I've never been a social scene kind of guy. You want no-hitters and perfect games so you don't have to cover the base, but you know it's not possible."
Youkilis didn't change much to his offseason to prepare for the shift, aside from a few extra grounders here and there. The transition is not expected to be an issue.
"I think he has always seen himself as a third baseman," Francona said.
The player agrees.
"If I get my body in the right frame of mind, as strong as possible and as flexible as possible, the baseball stuff [will come]," Youkilis said. "I'm out here already, taking ground balls and hitting, stuff comes. We've got six weeks of this."
One aspect of Youkilis' game that may even improve when he makes the move is his offense. In 205 career games as a third baseman, he owns a very impressive .917 OPS, compared to .893 while at first base.