BOSTON (CBS) – Kevin Youkilis has gotten off to a tough start in 2012, and Bobby Valentine thinks he may know why.

The Red Sox third baseman was just 2-for-20 (.100) on the road to start the year, leading some to question whether the 33-year-old was on the back nine of his career.

Asked by a local Boston television station about Youkilis’s slow start, manager Bobby Valentine offered his opinion.

“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine said Sunday night.

Read: Sox Win Third Straight Against Rays

Youkilis found his stroke at home against the Rays, though. In three games, he is 4-10 (.400) with six runs scored and three RBI and his first three walks of the year.

“But [on Saturday] it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there,” Valentine said.

With the Red Sox in the clubhouse early Monday morning for their Patriots’ Day game, it didn’t take long for the clubhouse to generate a response, with the clearest coming from Dustin Pedroia.

“I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do,” Pedroia told reporters Monday, as noted by Gordon Edes. “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here.

Pedroia was asked if such a comment could help motivate a player.

“Maybe in Japan or something,” Pedroia said.

Youkilis responded himself, too.

“I was confused by those remarks. Everyone knows I play the game hard,” Youkilis told reporters gathered around him in the clubhouse Monday morning. “Everyone here knows I go out and play with emotion. The only time there has ever been a question is because I’ve been too emotional.”

Edes also reported that Youkilis was seen meeting with general manager Ben Cherington.

Youkilis is in the final year of a four-year deal that pays him $12 million this season. The team holds a club option for 2013 at $13 million.

Interestingly, Youkilis is not in the Red Sox’ lineup for Monday’s game.

Valentine tried to explain his comments when speaking with reporters prior to the game.

I was giving an answer to a question and I should’ve been more specific and said your physical was about your swing and your emotional was not being happy when you don’t hit a ball off the wall.

“I don’t know if he accepted my apology, but it was very sincere. “The last thing in the world is that I didn’t want him to think that this was anything but an answer to a question that seemed to be jabbing at him. I was just trying to smooth it over and I guess that I didn’t,” Valentine said.

Watch: “5 Questions” With Mike Flynn

Meanwhile, stud third base prospect Will Middlebrooks may be putting a bit of pressure on Youkilis. He is hitting .364 with 3 HRs and 11 RBI in 11 games with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Off the field, Youkilis is engaged to Julie Brady, the sister of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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