MIAMI -- Before Kevin Youkilis returned from the disabled list, Will Middlebrooks was playing every day. Of late, he's been part of a rotation between Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez, with the three players jockeying for two spots in the lineup.
While it's sometimes hard for a young player to deal with unpredictable playing time, Middlebrooks has handled it well. He is hitting .339 over his last 18 games.
"Yeah, you have to be strong-minded," said manager Bobby Valentine. "[Hitting coach Dave Magadan] is so good at the work he gives the guys. I think they really do stay ready -- as ready as you can. He's watching the game, he's into the game. If I saw any elevated frustration level or any total decline in performance, we'd have to make another decision. It doesn't seem like we're there."
Did Valentine have a conversation with Middlebrooks once Youkilis re-entered the mix?
"Kind of -- even though I didn't know how it was going to be," said Valentine. "I told him to 'Fasten his seat belt. Life in the big leagues, you're in the fast lane. You're doing great. I believe in you,' and all that good stuff. Those are just words. Until you experience it, it means nothing."
It has been clear that Middlebrooks can handle anything thrown his way.
"You have to like what you see," Valentine said.
Youkilis gets night off after getting hit in ribs
MIAMI -- A day after corner infielder Kevin Youkilis was hit under his left ribs on a 92-mph sinker from Marlins reliever Steve Cishek, he was not in manager Bobby Valentine's lineup Wednesday night.
"He's pretty tied up. Again, I didn't see him," said Valentine. [Bench coach Tim Bogar] came in and I just talked to [trainer] Rick [Jameyson]. They say he's pretty rotationally restricted."
There was good news by the end of Boston's 10-2 victory over Miami. Youkilis had improved to the point where he told Valentine he was available for defense late in the game.
He wound up not being needed and no X-rays were taken.
- 142 wins
- 110 wins
The Red Sox don't play on Thursday, so perhaps Youkilis will be ready to play in the next game, which is Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.
This has been a tough season for Youkilis, when you combine injuries, performance (.219 average, four homers and 13 RBIs) and trade rumors.
Has the constant buzz that Youkilis, who has only played for the Red Sox, might get dealt had an impact on him?
"I can't tell," Valentine said. "He's a tough guy, but he'd be inhuman if it didn't affect him. It's his life. Someone on TV or someone writes about it or someone calls him at night, his wife hears about it [and wonders], 'Where are we going to be living?' Again, he's human. It's hard to think it doesn't affect him. Whatever."
Nava out again; Sweeney steps in
MIAMI -- For the fourth consecutive game, Daniel Nava was not in the Red Sox's starting lineup. The good news is that the left fielder at last seems to be feeling some improvement in his sore left hand.
"He might be able to hit if we need him to. He hasn't taken batting practice," said manager Bobby Valentine, "and I really did want to give [Ryan] Sweeney today and tomorrow [off], but we're forcing him into action."
As it turns out, Sweeney has been dealing with discomfort in one of his toes.
"Sore," Valentine said of Sweeney. "Actually it was OK when he went in the game last night. After the game, I saw him when he was coming back from dinner last night and he was walking OK."
Meanwhile, outfielder Cody Ross (fractured navicular bone in his left foot) is expected to start playing for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.
A couple of days ago, Ross said he was hopeful he would need just the three games with Pawtucket. However, his situation will be evaluated on Monday, when the Red Sox have an off-day.
Left fielder Carl Crawford (UCL sprain, left elbow) has been taking batting practice on the field of late, and he threw the ball at a distance of 60 feet on Wednesday. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (subluxed right shoulder) has also been making nice progress of late and will make the short trip from Miami to Fort Myers, Fla., to continue his rehab.