Notes: Youkilis back with club
Infielder to provide depth; Cruz designated for assignment
BOSTON -- The Pawtucket-to-Boston shuttle has become old hat to third baseman Kevin Youkilis by now. However, he took it to another level on Monday night if only because he had to.
Youkilis was sitting in the home clubhouse at McCoy Stadium playing a game of cards late Monday afternoon when the call came from Boston. The Red Sox were in a bind and needed Youkilis there for the start of the 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Rangers.
Without batting an eyelash, Youkilis put on his uniform pants (the home whites he wears for Boston and Pawtucket), threw on a batting practice jersey, and packed up his car. Away he went for the 40-mile drive.
"At first, they said I was going to play," said Youkilis. "But they didn't want me to drive too fast. So I just packed up all my stuff, put it all in the car, drove up here, got here about 6:30 and walked in to the clubhouse and basically put on my cleats and jersey. I had the same pants I was bringing back and forth. I had my BP top on. Took that off and put on a jersey and I was ready to go."
The roster shuffle started when Bill Mueller developed back spasms during batting practice. The Red Sox then designated Jose Cruz Jr. (acquired from the Diamondbacks on July 30) for assignment and activated Youkilis.
Alex Cora started the game at third base while Edgar Renteria, originally slated to have the night off, slipped in to the two-hole Mueller was slotted for.
It all worked out with the Red Sox rolling to an 11-6 victory. Youkilis made a cameo for the final two innings, earning cheers of "Youk" from the Fenway fans.
Cruz struggled to get his bat going (3-for-12, no RBIs) during his brief stay. The Red Sox have 10 days to trade Cruz, release him or assign him to one of their Minor League affiliates.
With outfielders Gabe Kapler and Adam Stern both available off the bench, and Kevin Millar roaming between first base and the outfield, the Sox feel they have enough depth in that department.
The other factor is that they know Youkilis deserves to be in the Major Leagues.
After making the team out of Spring Training, Youkilis has been optioned to Pawtucket three times and subsequently recalled each time. Still, he's managed to produce in his uneven playing time for the Red Sox, hitting .286 in 63 at-bats.
He has feasted against Triple-A pitchers this season, hitting .350 with six homers, 22 RBIs and a .450 on-base percentage in 123 at-bats.
Through all the bouncing up and down, one thing Youkilis has never done is driven to a Major League game in uniform.
"No, I hope never to have to again," said Youkilis. "I felt like I was in high school again. Pretty funny."
Mueller is listed as day-to-day.
Nixon optimistic: Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, who on Monday threw off the mound for the first time since undergoing left knee surgery on July 7, wasn't the only one making progress in his rehab.
Standing in the batter's box against Foulke was none other than right fielder Trot Nixon, who hasn't played since straining his left oblique muscle on July 27.
Of course, Nixon didn't make contact with any of Foulke's pitches because he wasn't supposed to. Nixon's job at this point of his comeback was to track pitches. He also did some light throwing and on Tuesday, he expects to take some swings off a tee.
This all constitutes significant progress for Nixon considering how worried both he and the team were immediately after his injury.
There isn't a timetable yet for Nixon's return, but he is exuding all the signs of a man who is feeling better by the day.
"I don't think I'm going to have any problems. I hope not, but I don't think I will," said Nixon, a fixture in the Boston lineup since 1999. "I feel a lot better. I think I started feeling a whole lot better a couple of days after I had done it. What they said, with what the MRI said, they were kind of surprised I didn't have more pain. I'm happy. I'm trying to not do too much each day, just do what they tell me."
Aside from easing into baseball activities, Nixon has been doing a lot of other work.
"I've done strengthening stuff and rotational stuff and weight balls, and it's responded very well," said Nixon. "I'm not going to get too happy and so forth. I'm just trying take it easy, try not to go full bore, not try to swing harder than I should."
Because of Nixon's intense nature, he has been known to overdo it in the past. But the Red Sox are keeping a close eye on a man who is a key to their success.
"He's, in the words of our medical people, doing very well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That doesn't mean he's going to start playing tomorrow, but he's doing very well."
Foulke eases back in: Aside from Nixon and various members of the medical staff, there weren't too many people in Fenway Park when Foulke hopped on the mound and threw 25 pitches early Monday afternoon.
"He came out early and did his workout and wanted to throw. Really, all it was was what we thought it was," said Francona. "He just got through that stuff. I guess maybe the word is checked his mechanics, you know what I'm saying. Just kind of got through 25 pitches and basically just got some of the rust off. He'll come back Wednesday and do it again. That's kind of what we thought it would be."
After Foulke completes his mound work on Wednesday and Friday, the Red Sox will determine what the next step of his rehab will be.
On deck: Right-hander Matt Clement (11-3, 4.67 ERA) takes the ball Tuesday night in the second game of this three-game series against the Rangers. He'll be opposed by righty Joaquin Benoit, who is 3-1 with a 2.49 ERA.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.