Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is juggling chainsaws and torches these days when it comes to the lineup.
It was tough enough trying to play Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks all at the same time. Now, without a DH for interleague road games, David Ortiz enters that mix as a first baseman.
This seems like a good time to check how Middlebrooks has been affected.
May 2-21 (while Youkilis was on the DL): Middlebrooks hit .297/.325/.581, playing in 18 of a possible 19 games and starting all of them. He had 77 plate appearances and 16 RBIs.
May 22-June 12 (since Youkilis came off the DL): Middlebrooks has hit .304/.383/.442, playing in 14 of a possible 20 games and starting 13 of them. He has 47 plate appearances and six RBIs.
The difference obviously is playing time. It's not a huge deficit, but one that figures to grow a bit with four more interleague road games coming up.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, is hitting .238/.253/.400 since Youkilis came back. He has played in all 20 games, 12 of them in right field.
Youkilis, finally, is hitting .219/.315/.325 since he came back and has played in 19 of the 20 games.
The Red Sox were 11-11 when Youkilis was on the DL and 9-11 since he came back.
This is a very small sample size. But so far Middlebrooks is playing less while Gonzalez and Youkilis are performing well below their expected levels. It's impossible to quantify whether playing so much right field has affected Gonzalez at the plate. But it doesn't seem to be helping. The same is true of Youkilis shuffling between first and third.
Youkilis was very adamant after the 2010 season that he wanted to stick with one position. Like Gonzalez, he's doing what is necessary.
It makes you wonder how long the Red Sox wait before changing the mix.