Youkilis swinging hot bat since returning

Youkilis swinging hot bat since returning

Youkilis swinging hot bat since returning
BOSTON -- It's no coincidence the Red Sox are playing some of their best baseball of the season since Kevin Youkilis returned from the disabled list.

Youkilis is batting .321 (9-for-28) and slugging .536 in eight games since coming off the DL on May 22 after missing 22 games with a lower back strain. The Red Sox went 5-3 in his first eight games back after an 11-11 mark while Youkilis was on the DL.

"He looks great," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I try to monitor things when a guy is in the dugout as well as when he's on the field, and early on, he looked different. He's good when he's in the dugout now, he's moving really well on the bases and his at-bats are good, very consistent."

Youkilis has primarily played first base since returning, though he's also seen time at third. He homered over the Green Monster in Wednesday's win over Detroit and finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

The Red Sox have played first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in right field with Youkilis back in the fold while keeping rookie Will Middlebrooks at third in an effort to keep the offense rolling.

Middlebrooks was not in the lineup for Thursday's finale with the Tigers. Youkilis got the start at third and hasn't missed a game since coming off the DL. Valentine will look to get him some rest this weekend when Boston travels to Toronto for a three-game series beginning on Friday.

It wasn't an easy decision for Valentine to remove Middlebrooks from the lineup on Thursday, as he's hitting .316 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 24 games.

"We're going to [play on] AstroTurf [vs. the Blue Jays] and Youkilis is not going to play all three games on AstroTurf, so he's going to get his day off there," Valentine said.