ST. PETERSBURG -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine provided brief, but harmless, answers Sunday to the first few questions about Kevin Youkilis returning to Boston with the White Sox on Monday.
"He's a good player," Valentine said, "and he's hitting well and seems to be in better health."
Valentine hadn't thought much about Youkilis coming back, but he offered that it would be "exciting" for the former Red Sox third baseman.
But Valentine referred back to the controversial comment he made earlier this season -- about how Youkilis didn't look like he was into the game -- when he was asked about the "friction" between him and Youkilis.
"I think that's a joke," Valentine said. "I wasn't here last year, and there was no friction in Spring Training. So I think that's a joke. But I'll take all that. I think that the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of, and I don't think he ever wanted to get over it."
Valentine said he had "no idea" what his relationship with Youkilis was like after that comment, but it was "whatever he wanted it to be."
"We didn't have a strained relationship in Spring Training, and I wasn't around last year," Valentine added.
Youkilis was traded to Chicago on June 24 to make room at third base for rookie Will Middlebrooks, but also because of his poor relationship with Valentine and his unhappiness with the manager's lack of communication. But Valentine also mentioned last season, seemingly a nod to the idea that Youkilis played a part in the stories about drinking in the Red Sox's clubhouse and other rifts in the organization.
Valentine said he was aware that some of Youkilis' teammates might have had an issue with him after last year, but he never knew whether it would become a bigger problem.
"I don't know," Valentine said. "I was a newcomer. I inherited that situation, didn't cause it."