BOSTON (CBS) -When Kevin Youkilis returns from the disabled list, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington says he will return to third base.
“If Youk returns in a week and is ready to go, he plays third base,” Cherington told CSNNE’s Sean McAdam from Kansas City on Tuesday. “He’s been here. It’s great that Will has come up and done a good job and we like him a lot and he’s a big part of our future. But Youk’s on the DL and he didn’t lose his job because he got hurt.”
Youkilis, on the DL with an lingering back issue, is eligible to return to the Sox on May 14 when the Mariners come to town for a two-game set. Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Tuesday his 33-year-old third baseman was making progress.
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“He was walking anyway,” Valentine said. “I don’t want to make it sound like he was crippled. But it’s a stimulated walking exercise program. It’s forward, back. It’s balancing with all the movements you need rather than just left in front of right.”
But the way rookie Will Middlebrooks is hitting the ball, the Red Sox might have a problem on their hands.
Middlebrooks is batting .409 with three homers, nine RBI and seven extra base hits in his five games in the bigs. Youkilis struggled mightily to start the season, hitting just .219 in 18 games before landing on the DL.
So if Youkilis comes back, will the Red Sox move Middlebrooks elsewhere, possibly the outfield, to keep his bat in the lineup?
“We haven’t talked about that,” Cherington said. “We like him at third base. We have to be a little careful about moving guys around in the middle of the season without a full spring training to work on things. We haven’t discussed that. We’ve got to get Youk back first before that’s a decision we’d have to make.”
Middlebrooks has never played the outfield, so it would not be a smooth transition for the young star in the making. The Sox do have some options, as they can send him back to Triple-A Pawtucket or field some trade offers for Youkilis.
But if Middlebrooks keeps hitting the ball as well as he has over the first week of his major league career, the Red Sox will have to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup somehow.