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02/05/11 6:30 PM EST
Confident Youkilis ready to man hot corner
Preparing for spring, Sox star kicks off new charity initiative
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
BOSTON -- If Kevin Youkilis has his way, his career will end the way it began: at third base. "Hopefully Adrian [Gonzalez] is here a long time, and hopefully I'll play at third the rest of my career," the Red Sox's newly appointed third baseman said last week in downtown Boston at a launch event for his new initiative, Athletes for Heroes. "It would be cool to both start my career and end it there." Of all the things that the Red Sox have to worry about heading into Spring Training -- the bounce-back of Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia's foot, who rounds out the bullpen -- Youkilis says his switch to third isn't another. Turning 32 during Spring Training, Youkilis has already appeared at third base 219 times. He's going there full-time now to accommodate Gonzalez, one of the best first baseman in the game who came over from the Padres in December. It's not as though the body of work isn't there: Youkilis made a career-high 63 appearances at third in 2009, 56 of those starts. He owns a career .966 fielding percentage at the hot corner. It would be hard to compare anything to his work at first, where he was excellent: He owns a Gold Glove and a Major League record with 238 consecutive errorless games in 575 appearances. Still, it would make sense if Youkilis was fearful of some rust this spring, some transitional woes. Unlike many, Youkilis isn't a winter-time migrant. He lives where he plays, in Massachusetts. He's been working out, but it's not as though he's been on a diamond the whole time. No matter, he says. "No, I never worried because I was always a third baseman," Youkilis said. "In 2008 in the playoffs, all that when Mike Lowell was hurt -- I do it every year. There's some games I play over there in Spring Training. It doesn't worry me. I think it's more excitement that I get to go back to where I came. "I just know if I put myself in the best shape possible that I'm basically going to be able to do all the baseball stuff after. For me, I lift weights, get in condition, get flexible. All the baseball stuff handles itself because I get down a little bit early." Youkilis has proven he can hit anywhere. He put up a .307/.411/.564 line with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs last season, a homer total that was low because injury kept him to 362 at-bats and 102 games. On Thursday, a clean-shaven, dark-suited Youkilis was at the State Room, in a high-rise overlooking Boston Harbor. He said there that his right hand is fully ready to go and the surgery that repaired a torn muscle in his thumb in August was a success. The only attention his thumb needs now, he said, is some moisturizing cream. Youkilis had another focus this offseason, and it took quite an effort. At the State Room, he was preparing to welcome some prominent names in both music and sports for a charitable event, this one a little different from programs his charity has spearheaded before. First -- it was in the heart of Boston. Previous events had been at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Second, it was the undertaking of a new initiative, to directly support those whose parents have been disabled or killed while attempting to assist another. Make no mistake, this is very much Youkilis' charity. He was at every board meeting this offseason, and there's a very specific impact he hopes to make off the field. "I've worked with grassroots, underfunded programs the past three years," Youkilis said. "I just wanted to basically have more of a focus for our charity and work with one select thing, and I've always been pretty patriotic. I've always felt that people always talk about athlete as heroes, but we're really not heroes. We're just athletes that, you know, play games and bring excitement. People go nuts, but the real heroes of America are the policeman and the firemen and the military; or just the person off the street that saves someone's life. That's heroic."