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Cook will take Beckett’s start

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 3, 2012
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Josh Beckett will miss his start Saturday against the Orioles, a 126-pitch effort against the White Sox Sunday leaving him unusually sore.

The Red Sox will start Aaron Cook in Beckett’s place. The 33-year-old righthander was 3-0 with a 1.89 earned run average for Triple A Pawtucket. Cook had the right to opt out of his minor league contract Tuesday if he was not called up, but he worked out a deal with the Red Sox to be added to the roster Saturday.

Cook was 72-68 with a 4.53 ERA with the Rockies from 2002-11. That includes a 6.03 ERA in 18 games last season as he battled a shoulder injury.

“Our plan is to have him start Saturday, and if that goes well, keep going,’’ said general manager Ben Cherington.

Starting Friday, the Red Sox are scheduled to play 20 games in as many days and 30 over a stretch of 31 days. That presents the possibility of using a six-man rotation.

“I’m not opposed to having more than five starters during a long stretch like that, depending how the starters are pitching,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine.

Beckett is not expected to miss more than one start, according to Valentine and Cherington. He reported stiffness behind his shoulder in the lat muscle Sunday.

Beckett was not available for comment Wednesday, but he was on the field for batting practice and worked out afterward. Had he pitched Saturday, it would have been with an extra day of rest. But the Red Sox did not want to take the chance.

“I don’t think there’s any concern about him making his next start or even if he could have with the extra day made this start,’’ Valentine said. “But it would have been a situation that we would have had to watch carefully. So no need.

“There’s a reason for everything, and I guess the reason is that Aaron Cook gets the start and Josh gets more than just that one day extra.’’

Said Cherington, “The more we talked, and factoring in Cook, just felt like we should get ahead of this and do the right thing. We expect him to come back the next time around.’’

Beckett is 2-3 with a 4.45 ERA in five starts.

Youkilis on DL

Kevin Youkilis reported improvement with his sore lower back but not enough to avoid a trip to the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox called up top prospect Will Middlebrooks and started him at third base.

“I had an irritated joint or whatever in the back that just has been happening for a little bit of time now,’’ Youkilis said. “Basically, the last couple of days have been bad and trying to get through it. Made great strides from yesterday to today. Things are going well, but they want to get a step ahead of it and get me as healthy as possible.’’

Youkilis said he had a breakthrough Wednesday working with team physical therapy consultant Dan Dyrek. But he’s not close to being ready to play.

“It’s going to take me three or four days, that’s what they’re telling me, of just trying to get through and not try to do too much baseball stuff where it can irritate it more,’’ Youkilis said.

“For me it’ll be a little bit of time. But the good thing is they know what’s going on and it’s nothing like a surgery or a major injury or anything like that. It’s an irritable thing that just popped up about a week or so ago.’’

Youkilis said the issue is related to back injuries he has had in the past.

“This is something that Dan has seen that I’ve had and it hasn’t been addressed properly and now we’re addressing it properly,’’ he said.

Mortensen shines

His stay may be only temporary, but Clayton Mortensen showed what he is capable of with three scoreless innings of relief in a 4-2 loss against Oakland.

After allowing a single, Mortensen retired nine in a row. Six were by strikeout. The last Sox reliever to strike out six in his debut was Diego Segui, who fanned seven Brewers in 3 2/3 innings in 1974.

“That felt really good,’’ said Mortensen, who was 2-2 with a 0.90 ERA in six appearances for Pawtucket. “I just tried to be as aggressive as I could be.’’

The 27-year-old had appeared in 24 games with the Cardinals, Athletics, and Rockies since 2009. The Sox obtained him from the Rockies in January in their salary dump trade of Marco Scutaro.

A former supplemental first round pick, Mortensen has been traded three times. But he feels like he’s making progress with the Sox.

“Just throwing how I naturally do rather than trying to do what someone else is trying to tell me to do. Rather me more free and easy than trying to be too controlled. Let the quirkiness and my legs and arms go nuts,’’ he said.

Red Sox relievers have allowed two earned runs in their last 28 innings since April 23.

Prior is signed

The Sox signed 31-year-old righthander Mark Prior to a minor league deal after watching him throw in Fort Myers, Fla., for a few weeks. He is coming off groin surgery. A former All-Star, Prior has not pitched in the majors since 2006 when he was with the Cubs because of myriad arm injuries. He got in 11 minor league games for the Yankees last season and pitched well before injuries ended that comeback attempt. “He looked good,’’ said Cherington. “His velocity has been good.’’ Prior will remain in extended spring training for now . . . Carl Crawford shagged some balls in the outfield before the game, but he is not yet throwing or swinging a bat. He is due for an exam on his left elbow next week and, if cleared, could start swinging a bat . . . Jacoby Ellsbury, out since April 14 with a partially dislocated right shoulder, is making progress with his range of motion. “He’s coming along and feeling better but he has to get full range of motion before he can start returning to baseball,’’ Cherington said . . . Jarrod Saltalamacchia turned 27 Wednesday . . . Middlebrooks started the day with No. 83, then got No. 64. Dustin Pedroia had that number as a rookie. Jose Iglesias is wearing No. 58 after dumping No. 76 . . . Middlebrooks’s close friend, Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett, was at the game . . . NESN analyst Jerry Remy missed his fifth straight game because of illness. His return date is uncertain.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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