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Ailing Youkilis will sit today

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / September 17, 2011

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Kevin Youkilis was expected to sit out last night’s game against the Rays at Fenway Park. What wasn’t expected was news that the Red Sox’ banged-up third baseman won’t play this afternoon, either.

“He’s pretty sore,’’ manager Terry Francona said before the 4-3 victory. “I think we kind of knew that [Thursday] night.’’

Hampered by myriad injuries, including a lower back strain that put him on the disabled list, hip bursitis, and a hernia that will require surgery after the season, Youkilis suited up for Thursday night’s 9-2 loss to Tampa Bay. He went 0 for 3 before departing in the seventh inning.

“We’re going to have to let this thing calm down a little bit and then we’ll go from there,’’ Francona said. “I know that’s probably not a lot of news, but that’s where we are with him.’’

Youkilis declined comment.

“How much and when we get out of him will be determined by how quickly he recovers,’’ Francona said. “Because [Thursday] night he didn’t feel very good and I think it was pretty obvious.

“There’s certainly some standing around in the game, which inevitably happens, just getting stiff and sore. Anything rotational and diving, just about everything you would do to be productive out there is getting harder for him.’’

Mike Aviles, who replaced Youkilis Thursday night, started at third base and batted ninth. He hit a solo homer with two out in the fourth inning off Rays starter James Shields to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

David Ortiz, who normally hits fifth, was moved up to the cleanup position, and right fielder Josh Reddick batted in the No. 5 spot.

“We’ve got to put a lineup out there that has a chance to put up some runs against [Shields],’’ Francona said. “That’s just what we thought was our best way.’’

Spotting starts Francona said John Lackey will start the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Orioles, but is undecided on a starter for the nightcap.

Rookie righthander Kyle Weiland, who went four innings Thursday night, could have been moved up, but Francona decided against it.

“We thought about bringing him back because he didn’t go very long, but we’d still need a pitcher one of those days anyway,’’ Francona said. “So it made sense to keep him on his day. I don’t think we can name somebody just yet, because it might depend on how we get there and who we use.

“Certainly with the call-ups, it’s not as critical that somebody goes six innings.’’

Queried about starting versatile reliever Alfredo Aceves, Francona seemed lukewarm to the idea.

“If you’re going to start him, I don’t doubt that he’d do really well,’’ Francona said. “But then you’re losing him for three days beforehand and for three days after and, right now, I don’t think that makes us a better team.’’

In the swing Shortstop Marco Scutaro entered last night hitting .444 (20 for 45) this month, best among players with at least 50 plate appearances in September. He was also second in the majors with 16 RBIs. He was 0 for 4 last night.

“He’s been getting hits,’’ Francona said. “If they make a mistake right now, he hits it.

“[Thursday] night, they elevated a pitch and he jumps right on it. That’s the sign of a guy who when he sees a ball and he likes it, he whacks it. I hope it continues.’’

As for B.J. Upton’s broken-bat single that went between Scutaro’s legs (jagged barrel followed by bounding ball), Francona seemed to absolve his shortstop. The next batter, Evan Longoria, hit a three-run homer.

“If that was you, what would you have done?’’ Francona said. “I would’ve got out of the way. I wish that he could’ve [made the play]; it hurts to watch a ball go through that shouldn’t. I think we all felt that way.

“But I think at the same time you’ve got to be human enough to know that a bat’s coming at you and your first instinct is, I better get out of the way here. So it’s understandable.’’

Lowrie improving Jed Lowrie, who had a cortisone injection on his left shoulder Tuesday night, took batting practice yesterday. “It’s been a couple of days now, from what I understand it takes a week for the full effect, but it’s starting to feel better,’’ Lowrie said. “I don’t think there’s any restrictions on it at this point. Just hope it gets better. That was the underlying theme in all this. I was just hoping that it helped, because from what I understood I had two options: either shut it down or take the cortisone shot. And at this time of year, I want to do everything I can to help the team.’’ . . . Francona reported that Clay Buchholz responded well from his abbreviated bullpen session Thursday, in which he threw 30 pitches (15 from the mound) for the first time since being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back June 17. Buchholz is expected to throw a full bullpen session today . . . The news wasn’t as encouraging on J.D. Drew, who went on the DL July 20 with a left shoulder impingement and injured his finger on a rehab assignment. Asked if Drew was ready to begin swinging the bat, a clearly chagrined Francona said, “He’s got a little bit of a neck problem, so we’re on hold there.’’ . . . Josh Beckett’s streak of scoreless innings against the Rays ended at 17 when Longoria hit a two-run homer in the first.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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