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When Terry Francona was manager, he usually pointed out that worrying about the bench and pinch hitters wasn’t a big concern for the Red Sox because the front office had built an everyday lineup. Players were responsible for one position, with a little background in another for the occasional “banged up” guy who avoided the disabled list by sitting out for six or seven days.
He never imagined the type of injuries that would follow the Red Sox from Spring Training forward in 2012. Now that Alfredo Aceves has locked down the closer job, at least until Andrew Bailey returns, the two players who are still, possibly, in flux as to their position going forward are Daniel Bard and Kevin Youkilis. Today, we take a look at Youk.
Will Middlebrooks has played well enough to warrant a starting job on a Major League team. A .289/.328/.484 line with 7 home runs and a quality glove at third base is nothing to sneeze at. Despite being the youngest, least experienced player of the bunch, Middlebrooks has stayed at third base while Adrian Gonzalez has played right field, allowing Kevin Youkilis to man first. It’s not ideal, but everyone is getting at bats.
The problem is that Youkilis is mired in a slump: .215/.301/.314 on the season and .211/.309/.338 since returning from the disabled list. It doesn’t matter how many teams Ben Charrington talks to about the veteran third baseman, a slumping player coming off tough injuries is not an easy sell.
However, Ken Rosenthal, the expert on knowing where players are going, hears that the end is in fact near for Youkilis. An official with a National League team told Rosenthal that the Greek God of Walks is “being shopped everywhere.” Among the leaders are the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Pirates in the National League and the White Sox and Indians in the American League. The demand is there, the price is probably low, although that doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t get a decent player of some type in return if they pick up some salary, and the replacement is in-house. This is a combination of factors not often present when a trade is rumored or, in fact, imminent.
Fourth place. At least. The Toronto Blue Jays have lost three starters in the past week – one has already undergone Tommy John surgery, ending his season. If Ellsbury, Crawford, and Bailey can contribute at anything close to their ability, Clay Buchholz avoids Logan Morrison, and Ryan Kalish is healthy, the Red Sox have the ability to field a dramatically better team in the second half. And that doesn’t include Adrian Gonzalez breaking out of his season-long slump. The bottom has likely already passed, even if it hasn’t been reflected in the win column.