The Week Ahead: Youkilis changes Sox, Bauer to debut
Third baseman moves to Chicago; top D-backs prospect likely to start Thursday
The Kevin Youkilis Era ended in Boston on Sunday with a few last cries of "Yooooouuuuuk," an emotional cap-tip to the Fenway faithful and an intriguing trade to the Chicago White Sox.
Boston fans will remember the on-field and in-clubhouse contributions of one of the emblematic stars of their most recent World Series championship team, the one that won it all in 2007.
Then again, it's 2012 and the Red Sox and White Sox have different ideas in mind.
That's the big story as we head into a new week in the season and move closer to the All-Star break.
With a three-time All-Star in the fold at third base, the White Sox have to believe that they can get enough out of Youkilis, who's had a sub-par first half, to call it a plus heading into the pennant race. Chicago third basemen have hit a combined .168 with one home run this year, so it won't be difficult for Youkilis to upgrade the position in a hurry.
"We just thought at this time it was necessary and necessary to do it sooner rather than later," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "He's very excited to join our club. He has a little edge to him which I like. I think he's going to fit in just fine with our ballclub."
Boston, meanwhile, has played better of late, and a big reason has been the work of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The Youkilis deal is a huge vote of confidence in the 23-year-old, who has been scorching of late and takes a .326 batting average, nine homers and 34 RBIs -- in 41 games -- into Monday's series opener against Toronto. The trade also is an astute move that removes any confusion that existed between Youkilis and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
"He's a talented kid, very confident, certainly has proven he belongs here and has helped us win games already," Boston GM Ben Cherington said of Middlebrooks. "We're confident he'll continue to do that."
The additions of a versatile position player in Brent Lillibridge and a talented young arm in Zach Stewart, plus the anticipated return of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list, can't hurt the Red Sox, either.
The upcoming week also will treat us to a new team with the best record in baseball, although it can't come as much of a surprise. The Texas Rangers are at it again, bringing a 45-28 mark into Monday's home series opener against the Tigers. It's a good thing they're doing as well as they've done lately, because the AL West-rival Angels are in hot pursuit.
Sunday's Freeway Series win over the Dodgers, their 11th win in 15 games, put Mike Scioscia's crew seven games over the .500 mark. The Halos will begin the week a Monday off-day, then a trip to Baltimore, where they'll begin a series against the surprising, AL East-contending Orioles at Camden Yards on Tuesday.
"We didn't have the offensive depth and certainly weren't productive enough to come back in games," Scioscia said of his team in April. "If we didn't get a break during the game, it was tough for us to win. We've definitely righted that ship, and are better at setting the table and are driving the ball better on the offensive side."
It looks like the heat will continue to rise in the desert as D-backs rookie Trevor Bauer is likely to make his Major League debut as soon as Thursday.
The right-hander, who was the No. 3 overall pick out of UCLA in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has risen quickly through the Minors. He has 116 strikeouts through 93 1/3 innings this year, having put up a 1.68 ERA in eight starts in Double-A and a 2.82 ERA in eight starts in Triple-A.
Now it appears the 21-year-old, known for his intense, long-tossing workouts and nasty array of pitches, will take the place of injured lefty Joe Saunders when Arizona takes on Atlanta in a series that starts Tuesday.
Bauer, 21, was pulled from his Sunday start for Triple-A Reno after 2 2/3 innings, leading the media to assume he'll be the guy with the ball on Thursday. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson didn't exactly deny it.
"We'll make that decision, you guys can speculate," Gibson said. "We don't have to do anything until Thursday."
As for one of the hottest pitchers in all of baseball, Mets knuckleballing ace R.A. Dickey won't have to do anything until Friday, his next scheduled start.
After throwing successive one-hitters, Dickey came back to earth against the Yankees on Sunday night. But he didn't get a loss, which means he's still 11-1, though his ERA jumped all the way to 2.31. The no-decision should keep him in the conversation to start for the NL in the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
We'll see if the old guy can bounce back Friday, when he's slated to take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
"I never considered it perfect, but it was fun to be a part of history," Dickey said of his run of brilliance. "When you can say you were a part of the pedigree of people that have come through this game -- I mean some big names -- it certainly makes for an enjoyable ride. ...
"I'm hoping to start another one."