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First Pitch: Kevin Useless?

6/10/2013

SEATTLE -- When the Yankees signed Kevin Youkilis as an emergency replacement for the injured Alex Rodriguez, it seemed like an acceptable low-risk/high-reward proposition.

For a one-time $12 million investment, they would add a player still reasonably young (34 years old) and not terribly removed from his last productive season, 2010, when he hit .307 with 19 home runs for the Boston Red Sox.

But now, more than one-third into the 2013 season, the Yankees' investment in Youkilis hardly looks like money well spent.

Youkilis has been able to play in just 25 games so far due to chronic back problems, and he has barely registered an impact in the games he has played. He is hitting just .239, about what he hit for the previous two seasons, and has just two home runs and eight RBIs.

He missed Sundday's game with what Joe Girardi termed "normal stiffness" in his back -- as if any stiffness in a back with compromised disk can be termed normal -- and despite both manager's and player's insistence that he will be fine once the Yankees open their three-game series with the Athletics in Oakland on Tuesday night, Youkilis' recent history forces you to adopt the attitude of believing it when you see it.

In his place, Jayson Nix and David Adams are hardly MVP candidates, but each in his own way has contributed as much or more than Youkilis for a fraction of the paycheck. Nix is hitting .255, his on-base percentage is higher than Youkilis', he has twice as many RBIs, he is versatile in the field and at a well-conditioned 30 years old seems a heck of a lot more durable.

And even though Adams is a rookie with an injury history (ankle) of his own, he has hit as many home runs as Youkilis in 30 fewer plate appearances.

Certainly, there is still time for Youkilis to turn this season around and make significant contributions to the Yankees, although it seems highly unlikely he will be an impact player this year. In fact, there are times it is easy to forget he is even on the team.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman took a lot of chances this offseason, and for the most part, they have paid off, even if Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner are currently experiencing some lean times at the plate.

But Youkilis has yet to pay off at all, even as the Yankees continue to pay him a salary that might have been better applied to, say, retaining Russell Martin.

But what's done is done. All Yankee fans can hope is that at some point this season, Kevin will go from Useless to Youkilis once again.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: In your opinion, is it too early to write off the Kevin Youkilis signing as a flop? Or do you think that what we've seen so far is all we're going to get?

UP NOW: My column on the Yankees offense, which hasn't been much but has still been good enough to enable them to win a half-dozen games started by some of the best pitchers in baseball, including Justin Verlander, David Price, James Shields, Justin Masterson, R.A. Dickey, and for the second time this season, King Felix Hernandez on Sunday.

ON DECK: Yankees have a day off today but there will be a conference call with Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees draft guru, to discuss the club's picks in the 2013 draft, so check in for a story on what he had to say later. As always, thanks for reading.