Kevin Youkilis gets apology

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said he has apologized to third baseman Kevin Youkilis for comments he made Sunday, in which he questioned Youkilis' physical and emotional commitment.

Valentine, speaking before Boston's Patriots Day game against Tampa Bay -- a 1-0 Rays win -- said Youkilis approached him Monday morning. Valentine said he "totally apologized."

"I don't know if he accepted my apology. It was sincere," he said. "The last thing in the world I would want him to think is that this was anything but an answer to a question that seemed like the question was jabbing at him. I was just trying to smooth it over. I guess I didn't."

Valentine said he thought Youkilis had visited his office wanting to talk about his sore groin muscle, but instead brought up the comments. Youkilis was not in Monday's starting lineup, replaced at third by Nick Punto, and did not enter the game. Valentine said he would use Youkilis as a pinch hitter if needed, but that didn't happen.

Earlier Monday, Youkilis told reporters he was "surprised" and "confused" by Valentine's comments, which were made Sunday before Boston's win over the Rays and aired Sunday on WHDH-TV's "SportsXTra."

"I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,'' Valentine said Sunday. "But [on Saturday] it seemed, you know, he's seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he'll move on from there."

Youkilis' agent, Joe Bick, responding to Valentine's comments Sunday, said: "I will not dignify his quotes by responding to something that is so far off base on so many different levels."

On Monday, Valentine said his answer to the question on WHDH was misinterpreted, and that his answer should have been more specific to Youkilis' swing.

"I think the question was 'It's not Youk-like the way he's playing,'" Valentine said in his pregame news conference. "I think that was the question I answered. I should have answered that his swing is not where he wants it to be, his swing is frustrating, it affects the emotion."

"I don't know what the reason is because I haven't been here long enough. I don't know why the swing is not where it wants to be and he's not banging as many helmets. I thought it was rather innocuous," Valentine added. "Matter of fact, seemed like they were trying to bang him and I started it by saying how good his at-bats were that day, his two walks.

"I should have been more specific, physical is about your swing, emotional is about not being happy when he doesn't hit a ball off the wall."

Earlier Monday morning, Youkilis, who found out about the comments from Bick on Sunday night, said he and Valentine had talked about it Monday morning. But the three-time All-Star would not divulge what was said.

"Everyone here knows I go out and play with emotion," Youkilis told reporters in the Red Sox clubhouse, before Valentine said he had apologized. "The only time there has ever been a question is because I've been too emotional."

"That's not what I see," Youkilis added in response to Valentine's comments on Sunday. "I go out every day and play as hard as I can -- take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last. I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself. I still get mad."

Youkilis also was seen meeting with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington in the clubhouse on Monday morning.

"I think Bobby wishes he had expressed the sentiment to Kevin first and I would agree with him," Cherington said after the game. "That's normally the policy. I think you have to take these things case by case. I don't think there is a blanket policy on whether a manager should ever criticize a player publicly. I think every situation is different. There are times that can be a great thing to do. I don't think you should say it never should happen or always happen.

"In this particular case, I don't think that's what he was trying to do. I don't think his intent was to criticize Kevin. That's the way it came across in print."

After the game, Valentine said the team's trainers felt Monday was too soon to put Youkilis back on the field with his sore groin.

Asked if he and Youkilis need to speak further, Valentine said, "I talked to him during the game."

Is everything fine?

"It is what it is," Valentine added.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia backed his fellow infielder in comments to reporters.

"I really don't know what Bobby is trying to do," Pedroia said Monday. "That's not the way we go about our stuff around here. He'll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's backs here."

Pedroia was then asked whether he thought Valentine perhaps was trying to light a fire under Youkilis, who is hitting .200 on the young season.

"Maybe that works in Japan," Pedroia said, referring to Valentine's successful stints as a manager in that country.

"That wasn't meant to motivate," Valentine said of Pedroia's comments. "That's not the way it's done. He took a little part of something and thought that he understood what went on, and that's not what went on."

After Monday's game, Pedroia said he had spoken with Valentine. "We talked about it. We're good," he said.

Pressed on the content of that conversation, Pedroia said, "It's between me and him, man. I'm not going to sit here and talk about what me and Bobby talked about. We're all grown men and everybody involved in this organization, this team, we're here to have everybody's backs, in the worst times and the best times. We all pride ourselves on that and make sure that happens."

Valentine, for his part, said he and Pedroia are on the same page.

''He's cool. He says he gets it. I think he was asked a question in a dubious manner," Valentine said after the game. "I told him what happened, he said 'OK, I got it.' "

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also voiced support for Youkilis.

"We all know Youk does give 110 percent every time he's out there, that's my reaction to it," he said after the game. "Youk's a team player, we all love him, we're all behind him."

Youkilis is coming off a season in which he was limited to 112 games because of a lower back strain, hip bursitis and surgery for a sports hernia, and hit a career-low .258.

He did not hit well in spring training -- .195 with only one extra-base hit -- but that was also the case last spring, when he was coming off surgery for a torn thumb muscle and had an even lower batting average of .175.

He went hitless in eight at-bats in his first two games this season and was benched in favor of Punto, who had three hits, in the team's third game. He was restored to the lineup the next day in Toronto and took another 0-for-4, but the next night had two hits.

In the team's last five games Youkilis is batting 6-for-18 (.333). In Sunday's 6-4 win over Tampa Bay, Youkilis singled and walked in three official at-bats, raising his average to .200.

Through the team's first nine games last season, Youkilis was batting just .148 (4-for-27), and finished the month of April batting just .218. But over a 60-game span that took him to mid-July, Youkilis got hot at the plate, raising his overall average to a season-high .288. But injuries then took their toll, and Youkilis lost 30 points on his average by the end of the season.

Youkilis is in the last year of a four-year, $41.25 million contract that is paying him $12.25 million this season. He is one of seven Red Sox players being paid more than $10 million this season.

The club holds a $13 million option on Youkilis for the 2013 season, but the physical pounding he has taken in recent seasons, plus the emergence of top third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks, has raised questions about whether the Sox will exercise that option.

"I think [Valentine] hadn't seen the same player on the field that we've all seen in the past so he acknowledged that first of all, he acknowledged that the way he expressed that was not the best way to express that," Cherington said. "He told the same thing to Kevin and apologized and had a chance to explain what he meant. I think we'll all learn from it and be able to handle it differently next time."