Friday, May 22, 2009

Kevin Youkilis is a professional hitter

Kevin Youkilis missed 15 days with an oblique injury and played just two games at Pawtucket to get his timing back. He went hitless in seven at-bats.

In his first two games since his return to Boston? He's got four hits and a walk in nine plate appearances. He stroked a run-scoring single on a cut fastball so perfect he couldn't afford to take it but shouldn't have been able to do anything but roll it straight at the second baseman.

"I had a couple of games in Triple-A to try to get my timing going, and I'm just going up there and trying to have good at-bats," he said. "I feel like my timing is coming about."

Youkilis was hitting .393 and OBP'ing .505 when he left a May 4 game with a side injury he'd originally suffered two days later. It was just the second time all season that he'd seen his batting average slip below .400.

Heading into Friday night's game against the Mets, his batting average is back up to .402 and his on-base percentage .508.

But Youkilis isn't just getting cheap hits. He's earning them.

In the third inning against the Jays' Robert Ray on Thursday, he came to the plate with two outs and Dustin Pedroia on second and the Red Sox leading by three runs. He took a called strike to open the at-bat and took three of the next four pitches to work the count full. All but one of the pitches he saw were on the outside corner or off the plate away; the Jays were determined to get him out on that half of the plate.

The sixth pitch Ray threw was a cutter down and away, a cutter he couldn't afford to take with two strikes. He went after it and turned on it and somehow pulled it between shortstop and the second-base bag to score Pedroia from second.

That's the type of swing the Red Sox weren't exactly expecting to get from Youkilis so quickly after his two-week hiatus. But that's just the type of professional hitter the first baseman is.

Even better: He's still not satisfied his timing is back.

"It's a project every at-bat the whole season," he said. "Your timing comes and goes a little bit. It's just part of the way baseball works. You've just got to keep working at it and keep focusing on trying to do whatever you have to do to keep yourself going."

No comments: