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Mates back Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis’ teammates came to his defense Monday after Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game and then apologized to his third baseman.

During an interview aired Sunday night on WHDH-TV, Valentine said he didn’t think Youkilis was “as physically or emotionally into the game.”

That drew a sharp response from Dustin Pedroia before Monday’s 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I know he plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. I have his back and his teammates have his back,” the second baseman said of Youkilis.

After the game, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also supported his teammate.

“All you can do is tell ‘Youk’ we love him. All it says is we have each others’ backs,” he said. “We’re pulling for each other on the field and in the clubhouse. We’ve got a strong bond.”

On Monday morning, Valentine said he apologized when Youkilis came into his office and asked for an explanation.

“I don’t know if he accepted my apology,” Valentine said. “It was sincere.”

Youkilis had a poor spring training and is batting .200 (6 for 30), but Valentine said his comments weren’t aimed at motivating him. After a 2-for-20 start, he was 4 for 10 in the first three games against the Tampa Bay Rays. He missed Monday’s series finale because of a minor groin injury.

“I’m more confused than anything,” Youkilis said before the game. “Everybody knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can.”

If Valentine’s intent was to have Youkilis’ teammates rally around him, it may have worked.Valentine said that in the interview he was just answering a question about how Youkilis may be feeling during early season struggles.

Bumgarner inks deal

Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants have agreed to a new $35.56 million, six-year contract through the 2017 season, locking up the lefty through arbitration and his first year of free agency.

The deal includes this year and options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The move keeps San Francisco’s top three starters – Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Bumgarner – under contract at least through next season.