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ONTO -- Kevin Youkilis was in the Red Sox clubhouse in Minneapolis on that July day in 2004 when Nomar Garciaparra was traded. He was also with the team four years later when superstar Manny Ramirez was dealt out of Boston in a Trade Deadline move.
Now, Youkilis is the prominent veteran on the team who finds his name dangled in trade rumors.
It started when Youkilis was on the disabled list with a balky back, and highly touted prospect Will Middlebrooks provided the Red Sox with a spark. And the rumors have continued of late, even as Youkilis has returned with a hot bat and has frequently been in the same lineup as Middlebrooks.
"You can't worry about that. There's a lot of business, a lot of things that happen," Youkilis told MLB.com before Friday night's game against the Blue Jays. "You can't stay up at night and worry about that.
"For me, I just go out and play and it will all work itself out at some point, some time. If it's not today, it might be tomorrow or a week, a month, two months or a year. You can't worry about that. That's for the Red Sox to handle. I'm an employee here until the day they tell me I'm not."
CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote the following passage on Friday: "Eventually, the Red Sox need to trade Youkilis. And Red Sox officials have told officials of other teams that's exactly what they intend to do."
However, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington disputed the accuracy of that report.
"That's inaccurate," Cherington wrote in an email. "Some teams have checked in, and anytime a team calls it's our job to listen. He's been swinging the bat well since his return and is a big part of our lineup and team."
The initial plan when Youkilis was activated 10 days ago was for Middlebrooks to return to Triple-A Pawtucket. That changed, however, when Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney added to the surreal depletion of Boston's outfield by going on the disabled list. Sweeney is back in the mix.
With Ross, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury all on the DL, the Red Sox have been playing Adrian Gonzalez quite a bit in right field. On those nights, Youkilis has moved back to his old position of first base while Middlebrooks has occupied the hot corner.
"It's not ideal, but sometimes baseball's not an ideal situation where guys are playing at all the positions every day," Youkilis said. "You just have to deal with it. You have to overcome adversity and just have to play the game. You can't worry about all the little things."
Ross might not be far from a return, which could create a dilemma for the Red Sox. Middlebrooks continues to perform well, hitting .316 with six homers and 21 RBIs entering Friday's game. Gonzalez has gained admiration throughout the team for playing right field, something that is far from natural for him. And Youkilis has looked revived since his return.
How long can the current alignment last?
"Do I think it's a permanent rotation? You mean, [am I] feeling that good about it? I think it's a workable situation," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "I think after the off-day [on Monday], it would be a good time to collect everyone's thoughts on it, or maybe in the next couple of days. It just depends on how it affects the guys physically and mentally."
Youkilis started his first nine games since coming off the disabled list before getting his first day off on Friday. His back feels healthy, and his results at the plate have proved it.
"It's been fine. It's been good," Youkilis said. "It was good for a while. We took a cautious route with it. I've been good for a while. I don't worry about it too much, just go out and play. It's been pretty easy to deal with."
Once this season ends, the future of Youkilis should become clearer. His contract expires, and the Red Sox hold a $13 million option for 2013. The club can buy that option out for $1 million, which would make Youkilis a free agent at the end of the year.
His expiring contract only adds fuel to the trade rumors. But Youkilis thinks the rumors could be media-driven.
"You can't worry about it. A lot of people hate and said some things around here. What are you going to do?" Youkilis said. "People have been hating here for a long time. And it's not fans. It's other people that hate all the time. What are you going to do? One day you're great, the next day they want to rip on you."
Youkilis has been a fan favorite throughout his time in Boston. Everywhere the Red Sox go, there are chants of "Youk" whenever he steps to the plate.
"Bottom line is, there's a lot of things that people say and do. The great thing is there's great fans and a lot of people that appreciate me," Youkilis said. "Some people just say things here and there that you don't agree with or you don't like. The great thing is you can go out and play the game and you don't have to listen to anything. That's the whole thing. I appreciate the fans in Boston and what they've done for me. I've never been mad at them."
Garciaparra and Ramirez were both beloved figures during large portions of their stints with the Red Sox as well, and they were eventually jettisoned.
Nothing would surprise Youkilis, who has the longest tenure of any current member of the Red Sox, aside from David Ortiz.
"You could get traded at any time," Youkilis said. "You're not better than the game. If you were better than the game, you would never be able to be traded. It's part of the business."