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Sports

Sox downplay Valentine-Youkilis flap

Kevin Youkilis, left, who did not play in Monday’s game, watched late-inning action. Manager Bobby Valentine is visible at far right.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Kevin Youkilis, left, who did not play in Monday’s game, watched late-inning action. Manager Bobby Valentine is visible at far right.

Is it over?

Ben Cherington, Bobby Valentine, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia think so. At least that’s what they all said following a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay Monday.

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The first major firestorm between Valentine and a player came to a head Monday morning when Youkilis responded to criticism from Valentine on WHDH’s “Sports Xtra” Sunday night.

The firestorm began when Valentine said he was merely responding to a question which was posed that Youkilis was not “Youk-like” to start the season. Youkilis started 0 for 8, sat a game, went 0 for 4 and then started to hit. He didn’t play Monday because of a sore groin.

Valentine told Ch. 7, “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.”

Valentine apologized for upsetting Youkilis and then said he had two conversations with the third baseman during Monday’s game and thought things were fine. Youkilis said after the game that he spoke to Valentine and, “We’re fine.”

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia also responded with comments defending Youkilis and being critical of his new manager, but even he acknowledged a meeting with Valentine and indicated all was well. Valentine said, “[Pedroia] said we’re cool.”

Cherington wound up mediating the dispute.

“I think as with many things in baseball and life, the more you get a chance to talk about it and understand what people mean were and how they perceived something, that’s what allows you to get past it. Kevin and Bobby spoke. I spoke to Bobby, I spoke to Kevin. What needed to be said has been said and we’ll move forward,” Cherington said.

The GM said repeatedly after speaking to Valentine he felt the quote didn’t reflect what he was trying to say.

“I was surprised to see the quote. I didn’t see the interview live, but I had it in that context. I was surprised because that’s not something Bobby had expressed to me. And we’ve all seen Kevin play for a long time and never wondered why he wasn’t into the game. He plays hard every day. That’s why it’s important to talk about it. I understood better what happened and we were able to talk through it,” Cherington said.

Asked what he thought Valentine was trying to say, Cherington explained “[Valentine] hadn’t seen the same player on the field that we have all seen in the past. So he acknowledged that first of all, and said it was not the best way to express it. He told the same thing to Kevin and apologized. He had a chance to explain what he meant. I think we’ll all learn from it and handle it differently next time.”

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