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Notes: Youkilis sent to Pawtucket

Notes: Youkilis sent to Pawtucket

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BOSTON -- When they optioned third baseman Kevin Youkilis to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Wednesday's game against the Yankees, the Red Sox knew full well they were sending a Major League player back to the Minors.

Such is life when a veteran-laden team is in a numbers crunch. The Sox needed to activate ace Curt Schilling so he could pitch Wednesday night, and Youkilis happened to still have Minor League options.

Entering a stretch in which they will play 29 games in the next 30 days, the Sox felt they needed 12 pitchers.

Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein both spoke with Youkilis to inform him of the decision, and they told him he'd be back.

"With them talking to me and stuff, they gave me reassurance pretty much that I'll be back up here," said Youkilis. "It's just to get some at-bats. That felt really good, just to hear that. For me, it's just about going down there and playing hard."

With a fixture at third base in Bill Mueller, there simply wasn't much of a way for Francona to keep Youkilis fresh. He played in just one of the first seven games.

"I have some reservations about him sitting on the bench too much," said Francona. "He's past a prospect, but he's a young kid. Probably me more than anybody, I don't want to do this kid harm. I had a feeling that we were going to be in a situation where we were playing [Ramon] Vazquez and Youkilis just enough for both of them to not play well.

"This way, Vazquez could play a little second, probably a little short, some third, get his at-bats, hopefully stay sharp and help us win. [Youkilis] can go down and play every day, play some first, play some third, and he's going to be back here."

The Red Sox called Youkilis up in a pinch last May 15, when Mueller injured his knee and Youkilis wound up staying with the team (with the exception of a six-day stint back to Pawtucket) for the remainder of the season.

"He did nothing to dampen our thoughts of him as a player," said Francona. "We love him as a kid, we love him as a player. He just needs to go play."

Youkilis will keep his Boston apartment and commute to Pawtucket.

While Youkilis wasn't necessarily expecting to go back to the Minors, he was realistic enough not to be shocked.

"It never catches you by surprise when you have options. You always have that in the back of your head," Youkilis said. "I didn't know they were going to carry 12 pitchers. I thought maybe we'd only [carry] 11. It worked out that way. I can't do anything about it but just do down and play. Get at-bats and keep working hard."

Miller begins rehab: Right-hander Wade Miller officially commenced his rehab assignment on Wednesday, throwing 4 2/3 innings for Class A Greenville in a game played at Savannah, Ga. He gave up two runs and four hits, walking one and striking out four.

"I think the outing was far more good than bad," said Francona. "He threw a real good breaking ball. He got his velocity up over 90 mph. I think he felt pretty good about himself. He'll come back and join us tonight. We'll reevaluate him on the side day and we'll get him out again on Monday somewhere to pitch. I don't know where that will be yet."

Vazquez back in: Vazquez made his second start of the season, filling in for Mark Bellhorn at second base. In Saturday's game at Toronto, Vazquez started at short.

"We're trying to always find spots for guys," said Francona. "[Bellhorn] hasn't had a lot of success against Jaret Wright. We told Bell the other night we were going to do this."

On deck: The Red Sox will try and avenge their Opening Night loss when they see Randy Johnson on Thursday night. Bronson Arroyo gets the nod for Boston in the finale of the three-game set.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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