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.
Through the years, his bad blood with Chamberlain led to several testy exchanges, adding fuel to an already tense rivalry between the rivals. His quirks at home plate, including his unorthodox batting stance, have long invited scorn from Yankee fans.
But old loyalties often prove no match for current convenience, as the Yankees have experienced with the likes of Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe and now Youkilis.
The Yankees essentially matched Youkilis’ 2012 salary to bring him aboard. But by accepting a one-year deal, he proved to be a fit for the budget-conscious Bombers, who are determined to keep payroll under $189 million in 2014.
But Youkilis’ signing comes with some risk. Various injuries have limited him to an average of 117 games over the last three seasons.
Ex-Spinners manager back with Sox
Former Lowell Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina has been hired as the new manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
The Billerica High graduate managed the Spinners from 2007-09, leading them to 125 wins and two playoff appearances.
He left the Boston Red Sox organization late in 2010 to join the Angels, for whom he played 12 seasons.
DiSarcina recently had been named special assistant to Angels GM Jerry Dipoto.