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They may have to back up plan

Youkilis could be affected by Reese

Suddenly, with Pokey Reese's thumb injury, Kevin Youkilis may no longer be as quite as expendable as he was expected to be when Bill Mueller returns from arthroscopic knee surgery.

The rookie third baseman, who replaced Reese in the top of the third inning last night and had a single in three trips, appeared increasingly likely to be odd man out while manager Terry Francona tried to rotate four players -- Mark Bellhorn, Nomar Garciaparra, Reese, and Youkilis -- in three positions. And Mueller is expected back around the All-Star back.

But if Reese is out for any length of time, especially with Mueller still on the DL, Youkilis takes on added value, which might quell some of the trade rumors surrounding the rookie.

"If he's out, it will be like when Nomar was out -- same thing," Youkilis said. "I'll probably get back out there playing every day, and hopefully the team will get some wins until Pokey gets back."

Youkilis said he noticed Reese near the dugout runway, "looking like he was mad about something," but wasn't aware that Reese was hurt until Francona told him to go into the game in the top of the third inning. Youkilis, out of the starting lineup for the second straight game, went in to play third, with Bellhorn shifting to second.

While the initial prognosis on Reese's injury was optimistic, with team doctor Bill Morgan predicting it would not require surgery, Sox catcher Jason Varitek said he hoped Reese would be given adequate time to recover.

"We want him to get to the point where he is able to play, and make sure he's right," Varitek said. "We've got guys who can play -- we can play Youkilis at third, Bellhorn at second, until he's ready. We have to make sure he's ready."

Before the game, Francona had foretold the possibility of another Sox injury while discussing the composition of the middle of his lineup -- David Ortiz batting third, Manny Ramirez fourth, and Garciaparra fifth. Francona agreed that he would likely keep his three sluggers hitting in the same order for the forseeable future, then added: "Every time I try to see the future, somebody starts limping."

After the game, he said: "I'd rather not do that. I'd rather be wrong."

Morgan said that Reese's return will be dictated in part by the amount of pain.

"A lot of it is practical," he said. "If he has significant pain, he's not going to be effective . . . [But] it's not going to change from a nonsurgical problem to a surgical problem, all of a sudden."

Could Reese wind up on the disabled list, becoming the 12th Sox player to do so?

"There's always a chance," Morgan said, "but I don't foresee that."

One-upped in relief
Mike Timlin, pitching for the first time since he gave up a game-deciding grand slam to Edgardo Alfonzo of the Giants Sunday, worked a scoreless eighth, leaving runners stranded on second and third when he caught Matthew LeCroy looking at a called third strike. Alan Embree worked a 1-2-3 ninth, but yesterday's most impressive reliever was Twins setup man Juan Rincon, who set down all five batters he faced and has not allowed a run in 17 of his last 18 outings. Twins closer Joe Nathan gave up a leadoff double to Garciaparra in the ninth, then set down the next three Sox hitters. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who had seen Garciaparra hit a grand slam Tuesday night, had tongue in cheek when he said: "We honestly are trying to help the fans out around here with Nomar. We know he's just getting back, so we want to make sure the fans still love him and we're letting him kill us." . . . Byung Hyun Kim will see his first game action since his medical furlough to Korea ended last week. Kim is scheduled to pitch an inning tonight for Pawtucket, then follow that with two more innings Saturday. Ramiro Mendoza will follow Kim to the mound tonight and pitch at least two innings. Kim began the season as the Sox' fifth starter, but made just three appearances for the club, the last May 10, when he gave up five hits, three walks, and six runs (four earned) in just 3 1/3 innings against Cleveland. While the party line is that Kim, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal last winter, can still make an important contribution to the team this season, there is some question how welcome his presence will be in the Sox clubhouse. If the Sox were counting on much from Mendoza, Curtis Leskanic's acquisition probably would have been superfluous. Don't be surprised if the Sox try to find someone to take Mendoza off their hands, if he can demonstrate he's healthy.

Game plan in works
Francona said Mueller will accompany the team to New York next week as he recuperates from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, with the possibility that he will go out on a rehab assignment over the Fourth of July weekend, when the Sox are in Atlanta . . . Sox executive VP Dr. Charles Steinberg said that the Sox, who at the initiative of Ortiz, Ramirez, and Pedro Martinez launched a drive to raise funds for the Dominican victims of severe flooding last month, also have plans to send funds to those in Haiti also victimized by the flooding. The fund-raising is a three-pronged affair, Steinberg said -- the monies raised by the public, the money donated by the players, and money donated by the club, which plans to match the public's giving . . . Dwight Evans was a pregame visitor. 

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