|Red Sox pregame notes: Bobby Valentine says Kevin Youkilis ‘looks great’||05.31.12 at 7:03 pm ET|
Nine games into the season, Bobby Valentine described struggling veteran Kevin Youkilis as not being “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” The comments created a stir, as the new Red Sox manager had made his first controversial statement about a popular, experienced Red Sox player.
Youkilis continued to struggle after the comments and ended up on the DL with an injured back. After his stint on the DL though, Youkilis has been back to his old form behind the plate, and Valentine has noticed it.
“He looks great,” Valentine said. “I try to monitor things when a guy is in the dugout as well as when he is on the field and early on he looked different. He is good when he is in the dugout now and he is moving really well on the bases.
“The only time it looked like there was even a stutter in his step was when he was a little miscommunication coming around third base one night. His at-bats are good. Very consistent.”
In his eight games played since his return to the Red Sox lineup, Youkilis has hit .321 with a .387 OBP, .536 slugging mark, .923 OPS, two home runs and three walks. That is a large improvement after starting the season hitting .219/.292/.344/.635 with only two home runs and five walks through his first 18 games. Youkilis struck out 20 times over that span, compared to only six times since his return.
However, thanks to the emergence of rookie Will Middlebrooks during Youkilis’ time on the DL, the Red Sox have had an interesting dilemma of who to start at corner infielder.
Middlebrooks has hit .316 with six home runs and 29 RBIs since his arrival in Boston, which made him a key piece of the Red Sox offense during Youkilis’ absence.
Adrian Gonzalez has moved to right field on occasion to help solve the situation as a short-term solution, but Valentine would prefer to keep Gonzalez at first base for the upcoming games on the artificial turf of Rogers Centre in Toronto.
For Thursday night’s series finale against the Tigers, Valentine decided to sit Middlebrooks, move Youkilis back to third base and move Gonzalez back to first base in preparation for the series in Toronto. Valentine said it was tough to sit Middlebrooks, especially one night after he hit a home run. However, Valentine said Youkilis is in line to get a day off in Toronto due to the playing surface, so he wanted to stick with the two veteran corner infielders.
– Cody Ross no longer has pain in his foot with or without the walking cast. Ross has another MRI scheduled to determine the amount of healing in the foot.
“It was non-displaced but you could see there was an opening there,” Valentine said. “We want to see how much healing has occurred.”
– Ryan Kalish, after going 4-for-12 with a homer in Salem, has been promoted to Double-A Portland to continue his rehab assignment. He played on Thursday, going 1-for-4 with a double and a walk. Valentine said Kalish has had “no ill-effects of his medical woes.”
– Despite the injury to Dustin Pedroia and the offensive struggles of Nick Punto, Valentine said there is no plan for another infielder to travel with the team to Toronto. However, he did not rule out the possibility of an infielder being called up during the series.
“We are doing that day by day. We have a plan,” Valentine said. “I suspect before the weekend is over there will be another infielder. But maybe not.”
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