Red Sox Notebook

Youkilis is ready to swing into action tonight

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / May 20, 2009
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Everything went according to plan for Kevin Youkilis yesterday with Pawtucket. He had four at-bats and "got through the day real well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. The only thing amiss was something that usually can't be said about Youkilis: He did not record any base hits.

"I asked him if he wanted to go to Double A so he could get some hits," said Francona, smiling. "He said no."

Youkilis chose a far more appealing option. He will be activated from the 15-day disabled list and return to the Red Sox starting lineup tonight, the first day he's eligible to do so. Youkilis has been sidelined since May 5 with a strained left oblique, the result of being hit by two pitches in roughly the same area.

Youkilis went 0 for 2 Monday night as a first baseman in Pawtucket, and he went 0 for 4 yesterday afternoon as a designated hitter in a game that started at noon.

Youkilis and the Sox were encouraged that he could play a day game immediately following a night game.

"He said he felt fine," Francona said. "I think he came through it feeling pretty well. And that's a quick turnaround, too."

His absence has been felt. With Youkilis and his .393 batting average, the Sox averaged 5.7 runs in their first 26 games. Since he left the lineup, they have scored more than five runs only three times in 13 games, a stretch during which they have gone 7-6. Including a 13-run outburst against Cleveland, the Sox have averaged 4.8 runs without Youkilis.

"We kind of miss his grinding at-bats," said Dustin Pedroia. "His eight-, nine-, 10-pitch at-bats get their starter out of the game a little earlier."

To make room for Youkilis, infielder Gil Velazquez will be sent to Pawtucket. First baseman Jeff Bailey, who replaced Youkilis in the starting lineup, will remain with the team.

Bailey, despite going 1 for 3 with an RBI single in the second last night, is hitting .190. But Francona has repeatedly expressed confidence in Bailey's hitting.

"I'm obviously showing them that I'm not letting it bother me," Bailey said.

Matsuzaka penciled in
On Friday against the New York Mets, Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his first start with the Red Sox since going on the disabled list April 15, retaking his spot in the rotation and sending Justin Masterson back to the bullpen.

Masterson's turn - between Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield - would have come Saturday, but Matsuzaka's insertion Friday, after Jon Lester and before Beckett, will give Beckett an extra day off.

Matsuzaka last threw Friday at Triple A, so he will be on six days' rest.

"No problems at all," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. He also said he "wasn't told anything" about a pitch limit for the start.

As it stands, Matsuzaka will oppose the Mets' Johan Santana.

"I'm not sure if it's good luck or bad luck," Matsuzaka said. "I personally will enjoy facing him. He's one of the great pitchers in the big leagues. It will be tough to win over such a great pitcher."

Masterson started last Sunday in Seattle, so he likely will not be available for relief until Friday. Masterson said he has no concern about the switch. Last season, Masterson transitioned from starter to reliever in the minor leagues.

Lowrie improving
The Sox entered last night with 11 errors from their shortstops - the most by any team in the majors - and Julio Lugo made it 12 with a bad throw in the fourth. But help could be on the way. Jed Lowrie had what he called a "productive" week working with specialist Scott Waugh in Boston while the Sox were on the West Coast.

Lowrie, who has been on the disabled list since April 13, had surgery on his left wrist precisely four weeks from yesterday. He was scheduled to return 6-8 weeks after the operation.

"The range of motion and the strength are coming back," Lowrie said. "I think the biggest difference is the pain. The pain isn't there when I do the grip-strength stuff. I felt the pain before, and I don't feel it now."

The strength in the wrist is up to about 80 percent of the strength in his right wrist; it was at roughly 50 percent prior to surgery.

Kotsay getting close
Mark Kotsay sprinted at Fenway Park yesterday, a sign that he is closer to returning. Kotsay was scheduled to return from his back surgery by roughly May 1, but he strained his calf during a minor league rehab assignment. Kotsay had no timetable, but he figured one could come today. He hopes to play in a rehab game within a week. "I think he's getting pretty close," Francona said. "We're going to use some common sense and try not to have this go the other way, like it did the last time." . . . John Smoltz will continue his rehab tomorrow with Single A Greenville in Augusta. He had been scheduled to pitch an extended spring training game in Florida today, but an anticipated rainstorm led the Red Sox to switch sites. Smoltz will throw about 50 pitches. He could join the Red Sox in roughly a month . . . Wakefield's start extended a bullpen-relaxing run of outings by Sox starters. Before Saturday, no starter had pitched seven innings since May 4. Over the past three games, Beckett pitched seven, Masterson pitched 6 1/3, and Wakefield lasted eight . . . Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 14 games, going 2 for 4 with a single and a double . . . George Kottaras entered last night 0 for 11 throwing out base stealers, but he gunned down Alex Rios to end the first.

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