Former All-Star changes Sox from Red to White

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Former All-Star changes Sox from Red to White

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Kevin Youkilis took off his batting helmet, waved to the crowd and blew a kiss to his adoring fans. A favorite at Fenway Park for so long, he wanted a final chance to say so long. The Boston Red Sox traded away the hard-nosed Youkilis on Sunday, sending the three-time All-Star infielder and cash to the Chicago White Sox for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart. "Bobby (Valentine) wanted him to have that moment of walking off the field," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. A member of Boston teams that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, the 33-year-old Youkilis had seen his playing time drastically cut lately. He now joins the AL Central-leading White Sox, who wanted a regular third baseman. "I just got off the phone with him, he's very excited to join our club and he's got a little edge to him that I like," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. "I can't tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and prove some people wrong." Youkilis had a rousing end to his days with the Red Sox. He was unavailable after the game, leaving behind a locker without his nameplate above it. After hitting an RBI triple in the seventh inning of a 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, he was lifted for a pinch runner. Longtime pal Nick Punto came out to replace him and the pair hugged. Youkilis saluted the crowd and was rewarded with a standing ovation. His teammates, coaches and Valentine all were on the top step of the dugout cheering for him, and they urged Youkilis to take a curtain call. Youkilis' time in Boston became limited because of the play of rookie Will Middlebrooks, hitting .326 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 41 games. "The way Middlebrooks was playing, he needs to be in the lineup every day," Cherington said. "Bobby's done a good job of shuffling everyday." But the GM said the veteran Youkilis will long be remembered for his hustle and grit. "He was a very passionate player that played very, very hard," Cherington said. "He sort of willed himself to being an All-Star and obviously was a huge contributor for us in the middle of the lineup. He did a lot of good things." The Fenway faithful should get to see Youkilis soon. The White Sox visit Boston a week after next month's All-Star game. The season started kind of rocky between Youkilis and first-year manager Valentine. In April, Valentine questioned Youkilis' commitment to the game in his weekly television interview, then later apologized to him a day later. Youkilis, who can play both of the corner infield spots, is a career .286 hitter with 133 homers and 563 RBIs. Longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia said it was a tough day. "He pushes me everyday," the Boston second baseman said. "I want to go out and play hard just like he does. He's always out there trying his best to do whatever he can to help us win. I appreciate him so much for that." The White Sox have been looking for a third baseman with Brent Morel plagued by back problems. "I think it's good for him. A good change of scenery, I'm sure," White Sox star Paul Konerko said. "Guy's a good player and he's been a great player in Boston for a long time so you can play at that level you can play anywhere." The 25-year-old Stewart is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 18 games with the White Sox this season. Lillibridge, 28, is hitting .175 with two RBIs and seven stolen bases in 48 games. Cherington was excited to get Stewart. "He's a good thrower and looks like he can be a major league starter," he said. "He just needs a little more time in the minors." Lillibridge is expected to join the Red Sox in a utility role. "I loved playing here, I enjoyed it so much," Lillibridge said after the White Sox beat visiting Milwaukee 1-0 in 10 innings. "I'm excited to see where my career will go and I'm excited to help the Red Sox."

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VIDEO: Dee Gordon homers in Marlins' 1st at-bat since Jose Fernandez' death

VIDEO: Dee Gordon homers in Marlins' 1st at-bat since Jose Fernandez' death

As the Marlins' leadoff hitter, Dee Gordon was the first to step into the batter's box on Monday night in the team's first game since the death of superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez.

It was an emotional moment after the team embraced at the pitcher's mound in his memory. Gordon began by imitating Fernandez' stance on the first pitch from Mets starter Bartolo Colon. That was great, but what happened next could not have been scripted.

Gordon hit his first homer of the season to the upper deck in right field and broke down into tears as he rounded the bases. He was then comforted in the dugout by teammates as he stepped off the field.

See it for yourself:

That's just amazing.

[RELATED: Thoughts on the death of Marlins star Jose Fernandez]

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Nats offer first reaction to playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round

Nats offer first reaction to playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round

The Nationals do not yet know where Game 1 will take place, but they do know for certain that they will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series beginning Oct. 7. They have seven games remaining on their schedule and four off-days after that before their playoffs begin. That's 11 full days to ponder their opponent, a Dodgers team that just happened to pummel them this season 5-1 in head-to-head games.

The Nats, though, see an evenly matched foe. Keep in mind that regular season records sometimes mean very little in the crapshoot that is October. The Mets, for instance, went 0-7 against the Cubs last year, only to sweep them out of the playoffs in the NLCS.

"I think we match up pretty good against them," manager Dusty Baker said of the Dodgers, a team he spent eight years with as a player.

"Anybody that’s gotten this far, there’s not much difference between the teams and talent. It just depends on who’s hot and who’s not and who gets the best pitching, who gets the most clutch, in particular two-out hits. Some of the challenges they present is they have a pile of a left-handed hitters and powerful left-handed hitters, and they hit the ball out of the ballpark. They got a good team. They got a good bullpen. We haven’t even seen [rookie pitcher Kenta] Maeda yet."

The Nats have almost two weeks to prepare for the Dodgers. But really, they have had them in mind for longer than that. Once the San Francisco Giants started slipping in the NL West race, L.A. emerged as the clear favorite to win the division.

"It will be a fun series," reliever Shawn Kelley said. "I think for a while now we've known it was going to be us and the Dodgers. Now it's just about are we going there or are they coming here first."

"First team we've gotta try to beat," center fielder Trea Turner said. "It's a matter of formulating a gameplan to beat those pitchers who have been really good all year. Especially, [Clayton] Kershaw now that he's back. Their lineup is deep. They've got a lot of veteran players and a good mix of young guys that have done it all year."

The Nationals enter Monday night 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers. If they are to finish with the same record, the Dodgers will get home field advantage based on their head-to-head series record.

Baker offered a measured take on what home field advantage would mean to the Nats.

“It’s not necessary because you’ve seen sometimes the home field doesn’t really matter. It depends on who’s hot during that series," he said. "But sure, anytime I can get home field advantage, we’ll take it, especially because you don’t have to go back to the Coast twice. Let them come to us. Right now we have the lead over them and so there’s no sense giving it up. Sometimes it can be taken from you, but that’s up to us."

Baker said he plans to give some players rest during the final seven games of the regular season. He does not know yet whether Max Scherzer or Tanner Roark will be asked to pitch on short rest in the playoffs. He also said the team has not decided how they will handle the four-day layoff next week. They will hold at least one workout either at home or on the road, but whether fans or media will be permitted to attend has not been determined.

It's an inexact science, trying to keep players fresh but also sharp after a playoff spot has been secured. It's even harder to navigate through those four off-days without losing momentum. The Nats remember all too well back in 2014 when they finished the regular season winners of 17 of 22, only to fall flat offensively in the playoffs against the Giants.

Baker has to figure out the best way to handle the Nats this time and he is still determining the best course of action.

"It’s a thin line between playing a whole bunch and not playing enough," he said.

[RELATED: Thoughts on the death of Marlins star Jose Fernandez]

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