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Kevin Youkilis a good fit with Yankees

12/12/2012 11:01 AM ET
By Jon Lane

Kevin Youkilis' Red Sox days are in the past. He's about to become a Yankee, so enjoy it.(AP)
Once the news broke about the New York Yankees and Kevin Youkilis agreeing to a one-year, $12 million contract (pending a physical), most of the feedback I received was positive. But that doesn’t mean that many others weren’t complaining about how a former Boston Red Sox who Yankees fans loved to hate will be donning pinstripes in 2013.

Some preferred Eduardo Nunez to play third base in place of the injured Alex Rodriguez, which is curious considering not many fans trusted Nunez with his glove last season. Others suggested Jayson Nix – outrighted to Triple-A and not on the 40-man roster -- as a full-time third baseman, or even an empty hole. They wanted anyone but Youkilis because he played – and played hard – for the Red Sox and was a thorn in the Yankees’ side.

To which I quote Sergeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis.”

The Yankees needed a third baseman – badly. Youkilis, whether you like him or not, was the best available. Eric Chavez left the Bronx for the desert and Jeff Keppinger signed with the Chicago White Sox. What you had left was Nunez, Minor Leaguer David Adams and from the scrap heap, Jack Hannahan, who batted .244 with four home runs and 29 RBIs in 2012.

In 1993, George Steinbrenner signed Wade Boggs, a beloved Red Sox, to a contract and fans loved him. Roger Clemens got started in Boston and frequently threw at Derek Jeter. The Yankees acquired him in a 1999 trade from the Toronto Blue Jays, and he and Jeter got along just fine. Then you had Johnny Damon’s arrival in 2006 and going back to 1972, the Yankees and Red Sox did business with the one-sided trade that brought Sparky Lyle to New York.

Folks, you will embrace Kevin Youkilis, because Kevin Youkilis has already embraced the intense Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and will do the same playing for the other side. This is what he wanted when he considered the Yankees’ offer against the two years he got from the Cleveland Indians, who play in his home state and is managed by a guy he loves, Terry Francona.

He’s got it and the Yankees are hoping the environment will, like Ichiro Suzuki, invigorate a star who previously owned some down statistics. Youkilis hit .235 with a .336 on-base percentage, a .409 slugging percentage, 19 home runs and 60 RBIs over 122 games for the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, his worst numbers other than the homers since he became a full-time player in 2006. And as Jack Curry points out, Youkilis ranked third in seeing 4.36 pitches per plate appearance, and hit .275 with a .386 on base percentage and a .492 slugging percentage off left-handers.

The biggest issue with Youkilis will be health, for he hasn’t played anywhere close to a full season since 2009 (136 games). If he is healthy, he’ll be at third and get rest against right-handers until A-Rod is ready, and then see time at first base and designated hitter. The Yankees also get a guy who hurt them while in Boston (.300/.432/.483 with a .915 OPS). Many will make a big deal over how Joba Chamberlain, who threw at Youkilis’ head more than once, will receive his new teammate. There’s nothing to that. The two will shake hands, hug and move on. A bigger storyline is how many Yankees fans accept him and how the Fenway Faithful will react. The Red Sox will open the 2013 season at Yankee Stadium on April 1, but Part II will have to wait until July 19, where the real intrigue will be situated.

Bottom line, Youkilis is the Yankees’ gain. If he plays to par those either on the fence or outraged will be convinced pretty quickly.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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