ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine essentially laid the blame at the feet of Kevin Youkilis Sunday for being unable to overcome some early season friction.

Youkilis, traded to the White Sox before the All-Star break, returns to Fenway Park tonight for the first time.

“I think the comment I made early, he made a big issue about and I don’t think he ever wanted to get over it,” said Valentine.

Was the relationship strained?

“No idea, it’s whatever he wanted it to be,” said Valentine.

Valentine scoffed at the idea that he and Youkilis had friction in spring training.

“There was no friction in spring training. I think that’s a joke,” he said. “We didn’t have a strained relationship in spring training.”

In Kansas City for his team’s series final with the Royals, Youkilis addressed Valentine’s comments by telling reporters, “I got nothing about any of that stuff. I’m over all the Boston thing of this year.”

Valentine made a comment to in May that questioned Youkilis’ emotional commitment to the team. He apologized to Youkilis for the comment.

Youkilis’ name was sometimes mentioned as being a polarizing presence in the Red Sox clubhouse among players last season at least.

“Everyone was aware of that,” said Valentine. “I was a newcomer, I didn’t inherit that situation.”

VALENTINE SAID Carl Crawford (left wrist) will rejoin the team today. He had been rehabbing at Triple-A Pawtucket.

RYAN SWEENEY (left hamstring) didn’t play for the second straight game, but could return soon.

BOSTON PLACED RHP Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and recalled pitcher RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.