Youkilis out of lineup after being hit in rib cage

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Youkilis out of lineup after being hit in rib cage

MIAMI -- Kevin Youkilis is out of the lineup Wednesday as the Red Sox wrap up their three-game series against the Marlins. Youkilis was hit in the rib cage in the eighth inning and came out of the game soon after as the Red Sox made some defensive substitutions.

Manager Bobby Valentine said the Sox' infielder was limited after being hit.

"He's pretty tied up,'' said Valentine. "He's pretty rotationally restricted.''

The Miami Marlins team physicians were planning on examining Youkilis before gametime, with X-rays possible.

"It was solid whack,'' said Valentine of being struck.

Soreness aside, Youkilis has been struggling mightily at the plate over the last 10 days. Since the start of the team's last homestand, Youkilis is just 3-for-26 (.115) over his previous eight games, dropping his average for the season down to .219.

Further complicating matters for Youkilis is his name being mentioned prominently in trade talk. Valentine spoke with Youkilis Tuesday about handling the distractions.

"Every season, for at least three months of the season, trade rumors swirl,'' said Valentine. "If you happen to be one of the guys being talked about, it's no fun. It's just no fun. You're answering unanswerable questions. You can't answer the question."

Valentine was asked whether he thinks the speculation is affecting Youkilis.

"I can't tell,'' Valentine said. "He's a tough guy. But he'd be inhuman if it didn't affect him, because it's his life, right? Someone on TV, or someone writes about it . . . his wife hears about it and wonders, 'Where are we going to be living?' Again, he's human. It's hard to think it doesn't affect him.''

With Youkilis sidelined, Will Middlebrooks may see his playing time increase. Middlebrooks is part of a logjam, with Youkilis, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, at first basethird baseDH as Valentine tries to find the right combination.

The rookie third baseman is, for the first time in his pro career, dealing with infrequent playing time.

"I think his play's been okay,'' said Valentine. "He's faced some tough pitchers, in and out of the lineup. It seems like he's staying very competitive. That changuep that struck him out Tuesday night (by Mark Buehrle) strikes a lot of people out, playing every day or not.

"You have to be strong-minded when you're not playing every day. He's watching the game, he's into the game. If I saw any elevated frustration level or any total decline in performance, I think we'd have to make another decision. It doesn't seem like we're there.''

Valentine warned Middlebrooks at the outset to "fasten his seatbelt."

" 'This is life in the big leagues,' " Valentine said he told the rookie. " 'You're in the fast lane. You're doing great. I believe in you.' . . all that good stuff. But those are just words. Until you experience it, it means nothing.''

Middlebrooks is hitting .300 with 6 homers and 22 RBI, with a .339 OBP and a .508 slugging percentage.

"You have to like what you see,'' said Valentine of Middlebrooks' performance.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.