As reporters gathered around his locker Saturday afternoon to ask carefully worded questions about his status with the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m still here,’’ he said. “I’m not dead.’’
The Red Sox are on the verge of trading Youkilis, multiple baseball sources said. He did not play in an 8-4 victory against the Braves, the third consecutive game Youkilis has missed.
The White Sox, Dodgers, and Indians are the teams most interested in Youkilis. The Red Sox would prefer to send Youkilis to the National League, but are prepared to move him to any team at this point.
The Indians were prepared to make a deal before the White Sox entered the picture, sources said. The Pirates are peripherally involved.
Youkilis hadn’t been told anything, but he seemed resigned to the idea of leaving the only organization he has known.
“I’m a paid employee here,’’ he said. “They make decisions about that. When you’re a paid employee and your boss tells you to do something, you do it.
“Until they tell me something, I’m here to play for the Red Sox.’’
A two-time World Series champion and a career .286 hitter, Youkilis has made three All-Star teams with the Red Sox, won a Gold Glove, and twice finished in the top six in Most Valuable Player voting.
But he has hit .250 over the past two seasons and missed dozens of games because of injuries. Manager Bobby Valentine prefers Will Middlebrooks, and with Youkilis in the final year of his contract, a trade makes sense.
“It’s definitely different, and you’ve just got to go day to day,’’ said Youkilis. “It’s definitely unknown waters. All you can do is come to the field, do your work, and try to improve.’’
His relationship with Valentine, fragile at best, is virtually broken now. On Friday, Valentine indicated that a conversation was held with Youkilis to explain why he was out of the lineup.
Not so, Youkilis said.
“To be honest, I never was told what’s going on here,’’ he said. “Let’s put that straight. And I’ll leave it at that.
“I don’t want to start up anything. There was no conversation, and that was it. But it has been addressed.
“Other things, with the speculation of this and that, it’s been addressed that I’m not playing today. Other than that, basically there was no conversation about it.
“I’m just coming in here, getting my work done. If I need to pinch hit, and play the game, I’ll come in and play.’’
Valentine wasn’t interested in rehashing what was or wasn’t said.
“I’m not going to go there,’’ said the manager. “I don’t want to pull out datebooks and all that stuff.
“I didn’t speak to him. I thought he was spoken to. If he wasn’t spoken to and he didn’t understand, I made a mistake.’’
For now, it’s awkward for all involved.
“Baseball’s an interesting game,’’ said Valentine. “A lot of things are happening and happen in baseball that you have to adjust to. So I’m trying to adjust to everything that’s happening.
“I’m just trying to play the people I want to be in the lineup. I think that’s one of the things I’m allowed to do.’’
Said Youkilis, “I have no control of that. I can only control the stuff I can control.
“To be continued, I guess.’’
Clay Buchholz is ill and will not make his start against the Braves Sunday. Righthander Aaron Cook will be activated off the disabled list to replace him.
Cook made one start this season, May 5 against the Orioles, and suffered a deep cut on his left knee that required 12 stitches. He was injured while covering the plate.
Cook has since pitched in one minor league game, going four innings for Triple A Pawtucket last Monday at Syracuse. He allowed three runs on seven hits and threw 66 pitches.
Cook previously pitched in an extended spring training game and in a scrimmage with short-season Single A Lowell.
Buchholz, who was not at the ballpark Saturday, is likely to be skipped this turn through the rotation.
Crawford gets started
Carl Crawford was 0 for 3 with two walks in a Gulf Coast League game in Fort Myers, Fla.
Facing the Twins, Crawford walked, grounded to second, was intentionally walked, grounded to second, and flied to center field.
“His legs were still underneath him at the end of the game,’’ said Valentine. “He felt pretty good.’’
The left fielder has been on the disabled list all season recovering from surgery on his left wrist and, subsequently, a partially torn ligament in his left elbow.
Crawford is off Sunday and will DH on Monday.
Setback for Bailey
Andrew Bailey threw in the bullpen Friday and “it didn’t go perfectly,’’ according to Valentine.
The closer, who is coming back from thumb surgery, will get some extra rest before getting back on the mound. His thumb was not the issue.
“His arm didn’t feel great throwing,’’ said Valentine. “We were accelerating his progress a little and we decided to slow him down.’’
Ellsbury not close
Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice on the field again, but is not yet close to a minor league rehabilitation assignment. He suffered a partial dislocation of his right shoulder April 13. “He needs to throw more,’’ Valentine said. “He needs to be confident that he can get back to bases, dive, and things like that that are shoulder-related. And swing more. It’s not his throwing shoulder, but it’s involved in throwing.’’ According to Valentine, Ellsbury is now recovered from his injury and getting in playing shape . . . Owners John Henry and Tom Werner presented Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones with a number 10 off the Green Monster scoreboard in recognition of his retirement at the end of the season . . . The Sox signed three more draft picks: catcher J.T. Watkins (10th round), second baseman Mike Meyers (12th round), and righthander J.B. Wendelken (13th round).Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe. Globe correspondent Alex Prewitt contributed to this report.