Youk a true pro amid trade speculation

MIAMI -- Kevin Youkilis doesn't shy away from talking trades with his friends and family. They usually avoid talking baseball with him anyway, but his walls are down if they bring up the subject.

Youkilis is generally approachable in the clubhouse. But he's ready with a monotone mask for reporters asking about his future, lest anyone improperly spin his words.

"Just don't want to say anything other than what I always do," the Boston Red Sox third baseman said. "''You've got to go out there and play baseball.' 'You have good days and bad days.' Clichés usually work."

With the Red Sox believing rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks is ready to contribute every day, the 33-year-old Youkilis has become the Sox's main trade chip.

Youkilis, who is on the last of a four-year, $41.13 million deal with a team option for 2013, is one of the more attractive veteran bats on the market. He makes $12.5 million this season and would have about $4 million remaining at the July 31 trading deadline.

In order to make him enticing to a small-market team, the Red Sox could absorb a portion of that money and potentially spend $1 million to buy him out of his team option.

"It's been about a month," he said of the trade talk. "You can't really get away from it. Am I over it? Yeah, the questions and all that. It's people's job to ask."

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine sat down with Youkilis on Tuesday. Neither manager nor player offered any clues as to how Youkilis is dealing with the uncertainty of potentially leaving Boston.

"I can't tell," Valentine said. "He's a tough guy. But it'd be inhuman if it didn't, because it's his life. It's on TV, someone writes about it, someone calls him at night, his wife hears about it -- 'Where are we gonna be living?'

"He's human. It's hard to think it doesn't affect him."

Every clubhouse in baseball has a player like Youkilis, who spent Tuesday's pregame session playing a game on his iPad, likely trying to think about anything but which teams are scouting him.

"When you have one of the guys who are a name, it's not fun," Valentine said. "Answering unanswerable questions: 'What do you think about the rumor?' 'Well, I hated to get traded.' And then something happens and you go somewhere and the first thing [is], "Oh, you didn't want to get traded, huh? You're miserable to be here!'

"You can't answer the question 'How do you feel?' It's terrible."

As Youkilis deals with the highest level of trade speculation of his nine-year career, he feels for his understudy at third. Middlebrooks is a rookie shuffling in and out of the lineup, like Youkilis was in 2004.

"It'll probably be a lot easier next year with that," Youkilis said. "You never know what's going to happen. He's a good player. He'll get that shot next year -- or when whatever happens this year."