Kevin Youkilis: ‘I’m ready to play’

Kevin Youkilis will be officially activated off the disabled list before the game tonight and will hit fourth. He missed 15 days with a strained lower back and received an epidural shot to help with the discomfort.

“I definitely feel better. I wouldn’t have come off if I didn’t feel like I could play at a high level,” Youkilis said. “I feel good. I can run, I can throw, I can hit — all the things that you need to do to play the game. For me, right now, it’s just going out there and doing it.”

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Terry Francona was happy to write Youkilis’ name back on the lineup card.

“Having him right smack in [middle of] the order is huge. … It’s good. One big hitter in the middle makes everybody better,” the manager said.

Youkilis has played through pain often in his career. But the back injury came after assorted other nagging injuries that were hampering him. Getting time off made sense, especially with the Red Sox headed to the postseason.

“I think it was needed to go on the DL. It wasn’t something, ‘Oh, let’s just put you on the DL.’ I needed it,” Youkilis said. “Probably would have done worse damage to myself if I kept playing. It was a good move on everyone’s part to do it. Hopefully I won’t have more problems the rest of the year.”

Said Francona: “Sometimes a forced break, because of one thing, helps the rest of your body. He was so beat up. He was hitting balls off both ankles. The way he attacks first base when he runs over it. I’m sure he doesn’t feel like it’s the first of the year but I think it’ll do him some good.”

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The Red Sox played well without their third baseman and cleanup hitter, going 9-5 and averaging 5.86 runs.

“The team did really well, we’re in first place and hopefully we can stay in first place even with me in the lineup,” Youkilis cracked.