Cherington: Youkilis will play third upon return

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Cherington: Youkilis will play third upon return

KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Will Middlebrooks has made an instant splash in his first week in the big leagues, belting three homers and knocking in nine RBI in the span of the last two games.

But when injured third baseman Kevin Youkilis returns from the disabled list, Youkilis will reclaim his starting job, according to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

"If Youk returns in a week and is ready to go, he plays third base," said Cherington. "He's been here. It's great that Will has come up and done a good job and we like him a lot and he's a big part of our future. But Youk's on the DL and he didn't lose his job because he got hurt."

Youkilis is eligible to come off the DL next Monday, May 14, when the Sox begin a two-game series at home with Seattle.

Middlebrooks is hitting .381 with three homers and nine RBI in four games. He has at least one extra-base hit in each of his first four games and has an OBP of .409 and a slugging percentage of .952.

But the Sox aren't about to cast Youkilis aside based on the first week of Middlebrooks' career, even if the rookie already has more extra-base hits (six) in 21 at-bats than Youkilis had (four) in 64 at-bats.

Manager Bobby Valentine was asked about the possibility of working Middlebrooks out at another position -- perhaps left field -- as a way of finding a way to keep him in the lineup with Youkilis reclaiming third.

"I don't know," said Valentine. "It's been tossed around in some quarters. He's a good third baseman. I think he'll have his growing pains -- understanding speed of the runner and field conditions. (But) his hands are good and his arm is strong enough."

Valentine said converting third basemen to corner outfielders is a risky proposition.

"I've seen it not work," said Valentine. "I've tried some, early on. Dean Palmer. (Middlebrooks) is more fleet, runs a little better than a lot of third basemen, which might give him a little upside (elsewhere). But it's a little different. It hasn't been a table discussion yet, so I don't think it has to enter his domain."

"We haven't talked about that," said Cherington. "We like him at third base. We have to be a little careful about moving guys around in the middle of the season without a full spring training to work on things. We haven't discussed that. We've got to get Youk back first before that's a decision we'd have to make."

Valentine was unsure whether Youkilis would go out on a brief rehab assignment when he's ready to be activated.

"I don't know," he said. "Either way. However he feels. No one knows Youk like Youk, so we'll ask his advice."

Quotes, notes and stars: Price's struggles 'crushing me right now'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Price's struggles 'crushing me right now'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES
"I'm so much better than this. I've just got to get better. It's crushing me right now, but I'll get there." -- David Price

"I've just got to pitch better. That's what it is right now. It's not something else. It's not bad luck. It's me, so I've got to get better." -- Price

"We had the big opportunity with David [Ortiz] and Hanley [Ramirez] in the middle of the order and bases loaded, one out. Figure that's the time we can cash in. But that wasn't the case.'' -- John Farrell on a blown opportunity in the sixth inning

"It got a little worse; the best choice was to come out of the game.'' -- Hanley Ramirez, who left in the eighth with a strained back

NOTES
-- Jackie Bradley Jr., thrown out trying to swipe third base in the fifth, was caught stealing for the first time in his career, having been successful in his first 20 atttempts.

-- David Ortiz has reached base safely in 20 straight games.

-- The shutout suffered by the Red Sox was the first since April 19 -- also against Tampa Bay.

-- The loss marked only the third time this season that the Red Sox didn't collect an extra-base hit.

-- Boston is 2-7 agains the Rays in the last nine meetings between the two.

-- The Sox are now 5-10 against lefty starters this season.

-- David Price dropped to 1-3, 6.52 in five career starts against the Rays.

-- Price has allowed 57 earned runs this season, or three fewer than all of last year.

-- Price has allowed at least one homer in nine straight starts, a career-high streak.

STARS
1) Brandon Guyer: Activated earlier Wednesday after a DL stint for a hamstring strain, Guyer made his presence felt with a solo homer to lead off the second, then added a run-scoring double as part of the three-run third.

2) Matt Moore: The lefty entered the game with a bloated 5.04 ERA, but tamed the Red Sox with seven shutout innings. He didn't allow a base hit until the sixth and yielded just three overall.

3) Logan Forsythe: Forsythe smoked a double off Price to lead off the Tampa Bay first inning, signaling that it might be a long afternoon for the Red Sox lefty. He later singled and scored in the third.

First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

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First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

What was Jackie Bradley thinking in the fifth inning? He wasn't, apparently.

Trailing 4-0, the Red Sox had runners on first and second with two out and Christian Vazquez at the plate.

Inexplicably, Bradley broke from second base in an attempt to steal third. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore simply pivoted and threw the ball to third, where Bradley was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

Not only did it end the threat, it guaranteed the weak-hitting Vazquez would lead off the next inning.

It was the first time in his career that Bradley was thrown out trying to steal and one that he -- or the Red Sox -- won't soon forget.

David Price didn't like the strike zone.

On at least two occasions, Price made a detour from the mound to the dugout after innings to confer with home-plate umpire John Hirchbeck, presumably about the latter's strike zone.

It may be true that Price got squeezed on some pitches, but when you give up four runs to a light-hitting lineup that had lost 12 of its last 13, it's not a good look to be placing any of the blame on the umpiring.

The Red Sox aren't the worst team in baseball with the bases loaded; it just seems that way.

The Sox threatened in the sixth when Vazquez and Mookie Betts singled and, after a flyout by Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts singled, too.

But David Ortiz couldn't handle some fastballs in the strike zone, popping up in the infield, and Hanley Ramirez hit a ball off the end of the bat for an inning-ending flyout to right.

For the season, the Red Sox are 18-for-70 for a .257 batting average with the bases loaded, ranking them 17th -- or just below the middle of the pack -- in baseball.

Still, it seems that the Sox have been particularly inept in those situations of late, most memorably when they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth against Chicago two weeks ago and improably came away with nothing.