NEW YORK — From his simmering feud with reliever Joba Chamberlain, to his status as one of the driving forces behind the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis gave Yankee fans plenty of motivation to boo.
But come Opening Day, they’ll be scrambling for reasons to cheer.
The Yankees’ bizarro offseason took its latest twist yesterday when the longtime foe agreed to the terms of a 1-year, $12-million deal, according to multiple sources, who said the deal is still pending the completion of a physical.
By the time Youkilis’ signing is official sometime this week, a source said that the Yankees will likely be on the verge of making another critical offseason move, re-signing veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal of his own.
In tandem, the moves will allow the Yankees to fill openings left by injuries and free-agent defections.
Ichiro, 39, is expected to play in rightfield, filling the void left by Nick Swisher. Youkilis, 33, will fill in primarily at third base as Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery that is expected to sideline him for at least half the season.
When Youkilis is not at third, sources said the Yankees intend to use him at first base and at designated hitter, where his righthanded bat will add balance to a lefty-heavy lineup.
On the surface, Youkilis appears to be an odd choice. In nine seasons, spent almost exclusively with the Red Sox, Youkilis is a .283 hitter with an on-base percentage of .384. The three-time all-star and two-time World Series champion has also displayed power with 148 career homers.
Youkilis’ successful run in Boston ended last summer with his trade to the White Sox, where he hit .236 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs.
It was during his time with the Red Sox that he became an easy target for Yankee fans.