After making short return visits, Kevin Youkilis is finally moving back to his baseball home, his first love -- third base.
"He kind of refers to himself as Happy Gilmore," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, citing the fictional movie character who loved hockey but was better at golf. "He thought he was out of position at first, but for him to be able to bounce from third to first back to third, we wouldn't be able to get an Adrian Gonzalez if we couldn't move Youk."
A two-time All-Star, Youkilis spent the last five seasons mostly at first base, accommodated by the presence of Mike Lowell and Adrian Beltre. With the off-season acquisition of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Youkilis is shifting across the diamond.
It's not simply that he's able to make the transition, though; he's excited to get reacquainted with third base.
"For me, I think it's just going out there and doing what I did to get to the Major Leagues; I was a third baseman the whole time," said Youkilis, who climbed Boston's farm system as a third baseman. "It will be fun. It will actually be a lot more excitement for me, because I love playing third base."
He has seen spot action at third in recent years, but he is now preparing his body for the rigors of a full season at the hot corner.
"I've been doing some good things with our strength program and getting my shoulder as strong as possible so it will last me the whole year," said Youkilis. "I pretty much know how to turn it on and off, like taking less ground balls in Spring Training and not throwing as much."
CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.
Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.
They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.
Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.
Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.
The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.
Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.
Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.
Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."
The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.