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."

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Trenni sits with Chris Sale and David Price during spring training in Fort Meyers.

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland knows he's likely the only new player in Boston's lineup since David Ortiz retired at the end of last season.

He's just not listening to those who say he needs to replace Big Papi's lofty production.

"I try not to hear it because there's no replacing that guy," said the 31-year-old first baseman, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason.

"I think it's going to be more of a team effort," he said. "Obviously we picked up two big arms as well, and it's a very balanced club."

After playing his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers, Moreland is with a new organization for the first time in his career. So far, he said, the move has been smooth.

"They welcomed me from Day One," he said. "Handshakes and hugs right off the bat. It's going to be a lot of fun. You can see why they had so much success last year."

Coming off a subpar 2016 with a .233 batting average, 22 homers and 60 RBI, Moreland tested free agency. He wanted to go to a team that had a good chance at competing for a championship -- like he felt with the Rangers.

"Something that was at the top of my list as a player," he said. "If I was going to be on a team, I wanted a team that had a chance to win. It makes it that much more fun to come to the park every day when something's on the line and you're fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs, fighting to win the division and fighting to win a World Series."

A first-time Gold Glove winner last season, Moreland knows the defending A.L. East champion Red Sox wanted his defensive skills at first to allow Hanley Ramirez to shift to Ortiz's vacated DH spot.

"It gives you a little more confidence," Moreland said. "I take pride in that. That's going to be my main goal, to go out and show what they saw."

A left-handed batter like Ortiz, Moreland knows some people will expect him to fill the void offensively because of which side of the plate he bats from.

"I think it'll be a group effort picking up what will be missing," he said. "There's no replacing that guy."

Manager John Farrell also said the club needs to move on from Ortiz so Moreland and everyone else can relax and focus on their own game.

"David's effect on the lineup was felt by a number of people. We know opponents would game plan for David," Farrell said. "I think it's important for our guys - as we put David out of our mind, in a good way - that it's still a focus on what their strengths are in the strike zone."

The transition may be easy for Moreland so far, but one thing has certainly changed: spending spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.

"Fishing's a lot different than Arizona, so that's nice," he said.

NOTES: "We're getting a firsthand look to why he's been so successful and an elite pitcher," Farrell said after left-hander Chris Sale pitched batting practice. The Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade for four prospects. They also acquired right-handed, hard-throwing setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee . . . Farrell said righty Steven Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury, "was unrestricted in his throwing." . . . The Red Sox will have a shorter workout Tuesday with the players association set to talk to the team and the organization's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon.