FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kevin Youkilis will turn 32 in a couple of weeks, an age at which most players beginning to transition from other positions to first base.
But this spring, Youkilis is going the other way. After playing first base for most of the last five seasons, Youkilis is heading to third base to accommodate the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez at first.
Youkilis, however, says that his adopted position is not as low maintenance as it might seem to the uninitiated.
"I think first base is demanding in a lot of ways, too,'' said Youkilis Tuesday morning before the first day of pitchers' and catchers' scheduled workouts. "People don't understand how much wear and tear the body takes when you're holding on runners, allways shuffling, every time a ground ball is hit you have to run to first base. At third base, there are games when you don't get a ball hit to you.
"First base is kind of overlooked in terms of the demands of the position -- if you play it well. And the good thing is, the older you get, the more comfortable you get with your fielding. I'm more comfortable now than I was at 24, or 25 at third base. Actually, with old age, it might be a blessing.''
The position switch is really no big deal, Youkilis insisted.
"I've been a third baseman for all my life and played third base at the major-league level quite a few times,'' said Youkilis. "For me, it's just about going out there and taking ground balls and getting used to all the little things that come with playing third base. Spring training is a good time to allow you to take a lot of reps and get it down. It's a little better than coming in in the middle of the season.''
Of course, there are differences between the corner infield spots and it will take some time for Youkilis to feel fully comfortable again at his old position.
"You have to charge the ball a little more,'' he said. "But you get used to that right away. It comes to you naturally when you play the position that you can't sit back. When you're playing first base, you kind of get a little lazy; whereas at third base, you're prepared.''
One area that could require a refresher course is the variety of arm angles from which a third baseman throws across the infield.
"It doesn't matter if you throw it underhand or over the top,'' he said. "As long as that bal gets to first base before the runner hits that bag, it doesn't really matter. But there are certain angles -- running in, barehanding a ball, you're going to throw underneath; charging a ball, you're going to throwa little sidearm; when you backhand a ball, you're going to come staight overthe top to fire -- you have to work on. Arm angles are probably the biggest thing you have to work on."