Ready and Willing

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Ready and Willing

While everyone in Boston or those of us with a soul at least are a little sentimental over the departure of Kevin Youkilis, we have no choice but to turn the page and move on to the reality of the Red Sox situation.

It's a little scary; sort of a departure from what we've grown accustomed to in this era of superstars and big spending. But at the same time, it's a good scary; an eager scary. Like jumping out of a plane, or bungee jumping or streaking the field at Fenway.

Plus, it's a scenario that we've all spent the last two months begging for. We can't turn back now. The new era is upon us and the only thing to do is embrace it.

Will Middlebrooks 23 years old 51 career games 144 career at-bats.

No longer the third baseman of the future, but the third baseman of the now. The guy the Sox will count on every single day, after only a small body of work and with little to no insurance on the back end.

It's like that cheesy cliche where the dad's teaching his kid how to ride a bike, running along side and holding onto the back while the little bugger pedals away. There comes a point where Pops knows all he can do is trust his own judgement and his child's ability, let go and hope for the best.

Yesterday afternoon, the Sox finally let go. Or more accurately, they finally found someone who would take Kevin Youkilis and allow them to let go. But either way, Middlebrooks is off. The keys to the corner are in his hands. And should be fun to watch him navigate the roads.

Personally, I'm not too worried. It was one thing for Middlebrooks to come up after Youk's injury and run off a little hot streak. But after what he went through these past few weeks? To never be quite sure when he'd be in the line-up To have to deal with being at the center of the back and forth between Youk and the Sox To be smack dab in the middle of the never ending controversy about toxicity and playermanagerownership dynamics

And to still be hitting .326 with a .946 OPS?

That's a nice. That's a nice, indeed.

With Middlebrooks, the future is finally now. And I can't wait to watch it unfold.

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

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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.