It has to be Youk

770812.jpg

It has to be Youk

Back in 1994, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd and Tony Danza joined comedic forces to bring us the legendary film "Angels in the Outfield." The movie, with its airtight script and freight train of laughs, was a surprise hit at the Golden Globes before moving on to a historic sweep at the Oscars. The world has never seen anything like it, and probably never will.

However, this season in Boston, the Red Sox are filming their own version of the mid-nineties classic, aptly named: Injuries in the Outfield. It's nowhere near as funny, but almost as compelling and has left Bobby Valentine in a tough little predicament.

But if there's one benefit to the sudden lack of outfielders, it's that it's delayed a decision on what to do at third base. It's allowed the Sox to shift Adrian Gonzalez to the outfield, while leaving Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks in the every day mix, and keeping everyone happy. So far, it's been a hit, as the Sox have won four of five games to move past .500 and within two and half games of first place in the A.L. East. Hollywood ending, right?

No. Unfortunately, it won't last. Before long, the outfielders will start coming back to life, and Bobby V., Benny C. and Larry the Terrible will have to make a decision: What do you do at third base?

My answer now is the same as it was last month: You have to trade Kevin Youkilis or do SOMETHING that allows for Middlebrooks to remain the every day third baseman.

Listen, at this point, the kid is no fluke. Sure, he's come back to Earth a little since his torrid start, but he has a month in the books and is still above .300, he's still showing power, an ability to hit in the clutch, and he'll only get better with time. Meanwhile, Youk is as good as he's going to get. He's no where near as good as he was. At third base, the future is now.

But in the outfield, the present is a mess. And for that, the Sox will continue to have the luxury of delaying a decision on third base. But sooner or later they'll be forced to act, and here's hoping they do the right thing.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

red_sox_hanley_ramirez_072816.jpg

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
---
Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
---
Matt Andriese P

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.