Kevin Youkilis: Yankee now but Red Sock at heart

Kevin Youkilis looks on from the dugout during Kevin Youkilis looks on from the dugout during the fourth inning of an interleague game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. (June 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City ...

TAMPA, Fla.

This may not be what you want to hear from the newest member of the Yankees, but here's what Kevin Youkilis had to say Thursday shortly after his arrival at Steinbrenner Field.

"I'll always be a Red Sock," Youkilis said. "That's a part of your history. That's a part of your life. You can't change that. One bad half-year doesn't take away from all the great years I had there and all the good things I've been able to do along the way."

Doesn't sit quite right, does it? Makes you a feel little betrayed that Brian Cashman's $12-million replacement for Alex Rodriguez remains a beloved son of Fenway? Still wishing that a true Yankee in Eric Chavez hadn't been signed away by the Diamondbacks?

Well, here's what I have to say about all that.

Let it go.

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If Johnny Damon, the bearded ringleader of Boston's 2004 idiot brigade, can become a fan favorite in the Bronx, then the same is possible for Youkilis, who sounds fully prepared to jump to the other side of this ancient grudge match.

Spending the second half of last season with the White Sox probably cooled those emotions some, and Youkilis expressed a more businesslike approach when talking about wearing pinstripes for the first time.

"I know the rivalry is so hyped up," Youkilis said, "and as players, the fans are still going to like you or dislike you in the heat of the moment. But when it's all said and done, for me, I'm just another human being that's going to go through those doors, and some other guy is going to come through them when I'm done."

Not long after Youkilis landed from his red-eye flight Thursday morning -- San Jose to Los Angeles to Tampa -- he was buying coffee for a Red Sox fan on his way to the Yankees' minor-league complex. As for Youkilis, the caffeine stop was necessary. He drove straight to the clubhouse, collected his bats and took BP with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.

"I had enough sleep," Youkilis said, smiling. "Starbucks does you well."

The signature goatee was gone, the face as clean-shaven as his bald head, and Youkilis knows it has to stay that way with his new employer. He's fine with that.

Youkilis also understands he's being asked to take over for A-Rod, a former three-time MVP now embroiled in controversy, and he's comfortable with that as well. He's aware that it could be for the entire season.

"You can't think of shoes to fill," Youkilis said. "I'll never be Alex Rodriguez. Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all time. I'm not going to be the same guy, but I can be a good major-league player that can help a team win."

The Yankees will settle for that. With A-Rod being kept at arm's length for the foreseeable future, having a circus-free pro manning his position is preferable at this point.

Youkilis had his fill of that stuff at the start of last season when Bobby Valentine, the one-and-done former Red Sox manager, called him out and ignited a clubhouse brushfire that ultimately ended Valentine's brief tenure -- but not before Youkilis was traded to Chicago.

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Having played in the Boston fishbowl should help him here. Cashman believes it might be an easier transition for Youkilis personally than it was for Damon, who arrived in New York with a chip on his shoulder after the Red Sox spurned him. The general manager didn't get the sense that Youkilis was directing "any scud missiles" toward his former team.

"I think he absolutely loved playing up in Boston and playing for them at that time," Cashman said. "And I think he's also realistic. Life moves on."

Of course. That's what Youkilis was trying to get across Thursday. Despite what it says on the back of his baseball card, it's a new day with the Yankees, and a new opportunity. Don't ignore his past, but don't define him by it, either.

As Youkilis said, even Giants fans bought him beer at last year's Super Bowl -- and he's married to Tom Brady's sister.

"Some people see it black and white," Youkilis said. "Some people see it gray. I just take it in stride."

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