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."