Decision day here on sinkerballer Cook
The Red Sox face a decision Tuesday regarding Aaron Cook.
The 33-year-old righthander can opt out of his contract if the team does not make room for him on the major league roster.
But with the starting rotation set for now, it appears the only way Cook can make it to Boston is if he is willing to pitch in relief.
“If he came here, yes [he’d relieve],’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
Cook, coming back from a shoulder injury, struggled to get going in spring training. But he utilized an effective sinkerball to post a 3-0 record with a 1.89 earned run average in five starts at Pawtucket.
“He didn’t pitch that well [in spring training], but when he was throwing well and he had that sinker, I really liked it,’’ Valentine said. “It’s a different pitch than many people feature. He’s competitive, works quickly, fields his position, has game presence and all that good stuff. I like that, too.’’
Asked if going from starter to reliever could be a challenge, Valentine replied with a chuckle, “For whom? Him? I think it’d be challenging, yup.
“You never know what’s going to happen. Right now I couldn’t say that it could be anything other than [relieving].’’
But with 20 games in 20 days from May 4-23, Valentine also didn’t rule out the possibility of a six-man rotation. “I think that’s a factor,’’ he said. “That’s a consideration - if needed.’’
Youkilis out again
Kevin Youkilis was a late scratch from the lineup Monday night for the second game in a row.
The third baseman also was a scratch Sunday in Chicago after suffering back stiffness following batting practice.
Asked if the cold weather in the Windy City was a factor, Valentine said, “It very well may have been. He was feeling all right and in batting practice [his back] just locked up on him.’’
Valentine started Nick Punto at third and batted him ninth against the Athletics.
“I guess he’s day to day,’’ Valentine said about Youkilis after the game. “He was taking ground balls and his back tightened up again.’’
Valentine said he spoke with head athletic trainer Rick Jameyson, “and he seemed to think [Youkilis] would be OK. He’s got a little twinge here and there. He’d play if he could, I’ll guarantee you that. He was trying up until he took one too many ground balls.’’
Happy for Hill
Daniel Bard said he was glad to see veteran lefthander Rich Hill back on the team after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Hill returned in less than a year; he suffered the injury last June.
“I’m really happy, No. 1, because we need him,’’ said Bard. “But more importantly he’s a good friend of mine, an awesome guy, a great teammate, and a good guy to have around the clubhouse. We’re just thrilled to have him back and happy for him personally to have battled his way back.’’
Hill, a native of Milton, was activated Friday and joined the team in Chicago after lefthander Justin Thomas was optioned to Pawtucket. Hill’s outing Sunday was his first major league appearance since June 1, 2011. He allowed one run on one hit and a pair of walks in two-thirds of an inning, ending a 15-game scoreless stretch over 12 innings to begin his Sox career.
“I’m glad Rich is here,’’ Valentine said. “I think his rehabilitation has been miraculous. His hard work should be credited and acknowledged. How he fits into our group and adjusts back to the mound in a big league stadium is a work in progress, I would think. But I’m glad that he’s here.’’
Multi-tasking for Ortiz
David Ortiz recorded the 38th multi-homer game of his career (36 with the Red Sox) Monday night. He hit a leadoff shot to the visitors’ bullpen that triggered a four-run rally in the second, then stroked a one-out solo shot to the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth. It hit off the glove of a leaping Josh Reddick, the former Sox right fielder, who went tumbling into the pen. Ortiz’s fifth and sixth homers of the season left him one shy of tying Ted Williams for the club record for multi-homer games . . . Darnell McDonald recorded his second homer of the season, a two-run shot off the light stanchion in left-center in the third.
This wasn’t the plan
Valentine expressed regret over not being fully prepared to handle the injuries of Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Bailey. “I didn’t have a major plan for not having Ellsbury - my fault, I should’ve - and [being] too deep in the bullpen,’’ he said. “The two guys we traded for during the wintertime [Bailey and Mark Melancon], I figured one of them would be pitching in the ninth inning.’’ The injuries forced Valentine to make adjustments on the fly. “Absolutely,’’ he said. “That’s what I’m doing.’’ . . . Valentine said Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has made rehab stints at Single A Salem and Double A Portland, is expected to make his third start in his comeback from Tommy John surgery for Pawtucket Friday in Toledo. “Depending on the weather,’’ Valentine said. “We’re trying to make a plan in case there’s bad weather so he doesn’t get off schedule.’’ . . . Matt Barnes, the 19th overall selection by the Sox in the 2011 draft, was promoted Monday from Low A Greenville to Single A Salem. The 21-year-old righthander from the University of Connecticut made five dominating starts for Greenville, allowing one run on 12 hits and four walks while registering 42 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.