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Bobby Valentine apologizes to ‘confused’ Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis has had a slow start to the season offensively.

Elsa/Getty Images

Kevin Youkilis has had a slow start to the season offensively.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told the media Monday that he never intended his comments on WHDH’s Sports Xtra show Sunday night to be seen as critical of Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, and that he had apologized to his cleanup hitter Monday morning.

Approached in the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning, Youkilis was asked about his initial reaction to his manager’s comments and whether it was upsetting to have his commitment questioned in public.

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“I’m more confused than anything because everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can,’’ Youkilis said. “It’s just my style of play. I was never blessed with the raw tools and I’ve always had to use playing the game hard and with full effort my whole life.’’

Like the team, Youkilis got off to a poor start this season, but he seemed to have turned a corner in Boston’s last three games at Fenway Park. Despite the team’s three-game win streak, Valentine publicly called out his cleanup hitter.

“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” said Valentine. “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.”

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Valentine met with the media Monday and said he had met with Youkilis in the morning and offered him a clarification and an apology.

“Kevin came in this morning and I thought it was about his groin,’’ Valentine said. “I thought he was going to tell me how his groin was, and I said, `Hey, how’s the groin?’ and he said, ‘Well, all right, but what’s going on?’

“When he told me that people called him and told him that I said things that he didn’t like, I totally apologized,” Valentine said. “I said the last thing in the world I want you to think is that I’m doing anything to criticize you. I was giving an answer to a question and I should’ve been more specific and said your physical was about your swing and your emotional was not being happy when you don’t hit a ball off the wall.

“I don’t know if he accepted my apology, but it was very sincere,” Valentine. “The last thing in the world is that I didn’t want him to think that this was anything but an answer to a question that seemed to be jabbing at him. I was just trying to smooth it over and I guess that I didn’t.”

Youkilis is not in today’s lineup vs. Tampa Bay. Nick Punto will play third base and bat seventh. But Valentine said it had nothing to do with the perception he was being critical of Youkilis and more to do with his sore groin.

Dustin Pedroia came to the defense of his teammate this morning.

“I don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do, but that’s not the way we do things here,” said Pedroia. “Maybe that stuff works in Japan.”

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