SEATTLE -- Kevin Youkilis sighed.
“Are we going to be asking me the same questions every year?’’ he said.
Well, yes. Because it has been an ongoing issue with the Red Sox whether Youkilis will play first base, third base or both.
To review: Youkilis broke in to the big leagues as a third baseman in 2004, then made his first big league appearance at first in 2005, a season he split between Pawtucket and Boston. That winter, the Sox acquired Mike Lowell, and Youkilis became the everyday first baseman, though he did play 16 games at third, including 10 starts, in 2006.
In 2007, he was a Gold Glover at first, making no errors and setting an American League record for consecutive errorless games (135).
In 2008, Youkilis started 125 games at first, but with Lowell making two trips to the disabled list, Youkilis wound up starting 32 games at third, with Sean Casey filling in at first.
In 2009, with Lowell still clearly hobbled, Youkilis basically split his season between first and third, playing 77 games at first, 63 at third. Seven other players started games at first last season for the Sox, who traded for two first basemen, Adam LaRoche and Casey Kotchman, during the season.
When the Sox signed free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre last winter, it was clear that Youkilis’s services would be required only at first, and he said he had little interest in bouncing back and forth between positions.
But Beltre is eligible for free agency again, Lowell is retiring, and once again, what position is in Youkilis' future remains to be determined. And so, the questions return, namely: Would he be willing to go back to third if the Sox decide that’s where they want him to play?
“Play third base? I’d play third base, sure,’’ he said.
“I hope it doesn’t become a trend every year to ask me the same question. I’m willing to play anywhere. Third base, first base, I’ve always been that way. I haven’t changed, and it’s not going to change. I’m here to play. That’s it.’’
Some players, once they’ve established themselves at one position, are reluctant to change, especially veterans.
“I’m not like that,’’ Youkilis said. “Just play the game. You’re paid to play the game, so you can’t complain.’’