Kevin Youkilis got the Red Sox off to a good start in the ALDS last night with a first inning home run. This morning he spoke to a small group of reporters after the team completed an informal workout. Among the subjects he spoke to was being knocked out of the line-up by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch on September 15, and the fear that he might not be ready for the playoffs.
“Among the things we have here is technology,” said Youkilis, “and having an x-ray, just to make sure the hand, and everything, wasn’t broken, was a huge, huge positive. With all the energy flowing through my head, I thought I’d be back in a couple of days, but the trainers knew that I wouldn’t be back that soon — that it would take longer. They needed to see how I progressed, and I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to play. But I got a cortisone shot that helped out a lot, and ever since it’s been great. I’ve been building strength in it, and it’s exciting to be out there and swing without feeling pain.”
Youkilis also addressed the expectations that Daisuke Matsuzaka has faced this season.
“The guy can be a Rookie-of-the-Year candidate,” said Youkilis, “but everyone treats him like he’s a 10-year veteran because of his contract. That’s not fair. He’s just 26 years old, and this is his first year pitching in America, in the major leagues, and it’s definitely tough. I think that a lot of people are unfair in that it’s a huge culture shock. These guys come into a whole new world, and it’s completely different. If you had a job where you didn’t speak the language, and were standing there by yourself, with an interpreter, it would be hard. For what Daisuke has gone through this year, he’s done a great job. We’re proud of him, and excited to see him come out tomorrow and pitch in Game 2 for us.”
The Red Sox first baseman also talked about what it’s like to be playing in the post season.
“The atmosphere of the playoffs — if you don’t love to play in this,” said Youkilis, “you’re in the wrong sport; the wrong job. This is great. This is everything. During the year, there’s a lot of turmoil, and lot of talk about stats, but here it’s just about winning. It’s moving over runners, and if you make a play in the field, it can determine the ball game. You don’t realize that as much during the year as you do now. During the season, you lose a game here or there, you get over it. This is do or die. You have to win.”