Notes: Youkilis enjoying new role

Notes: Youkilis enjoying new role

BOSTON -- Long gone is the Pawtucket-to-Boston shuttle, a route Kevin Youkilis didn't need to touch Mapquest for.

There's no more subtle crooks of his neck to glance at the daily lineup card. Youkilis knows that, more often than not, he will be in the starting nine of the Red Sox.

The past couple of days, Youkilis has proven to be a huge factor for the Red Sox. While he used his less-than-blazing speed to will out an infield hit that set up Mark Loretta's walkoff homer on Monday, Youkilis flexed his muscles Tuesday night and smashed a two-run double off the wall in left-center that snapped a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"It feels good. That's my job," Youkilis said. "I'm not a role player anymore where I'm playing every seven days. I have to go out there and help this team win, whether it's on defense or offensively. I have to do something each day to contribute to a win and that's what my whole goal is -- not to focus on just offense or defense, but to do both."

Moving across the diamond to first base has been a much welcomed transition to Youkilis. Anything that would get him in the lineup every day is something he'd be a big fan of.

"It's good. I come to the park knowing that I'm going to play," said Youkilis. "Mentally, I just rest up when I go home and I just get excited every day to come to the field and play. Knowing that I get to play every day is definitely something that's a lot easier to deal with, mentally. You're not worried about when you're playing, what day you're gonna get in there, who you're facing, who you're playing against. For me, it's definitely a lot better mentally knowing that I'm going to be in there every day."

The mental ease has translated into physical action. Youkilis is hitting .318 with five doubles and eight RBIs.

After a two-year apprenticeship behind Bill Mueller, Youkilis wondered if he had

Defensively, Youkilis has more than held his own in an infield that has been solid across the board.

"I think a lot of it is reaction," Youkilis said. "It's all about just keeping your feet in front of you and knowing where the base is and knowing when you have to come off the base and not trying to do too much. It's definitely an easier position to play than third base, because a lot of times you can just knock the ball down and you don't have to throw it across the infield.

"At third base, there's a lot of plays you have to dive down the line and if you don't field it cleanly and get rid of it, the guy is safe. At first base, you can dive, roll around, come up and flip the ball. It's a lot more fun at that position -- just tumble around and wait for the pitcher to get there."

Tavarez and Tampa Bay: The last time the Red Sox and Devil Rays met before Tuesday was March 27, when Boston reliever Julian Tavarez took a couple of punches at Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright following a collision at home plate. Tavarez was suspended 10 days for his actions. However, Red Sox manager Terry Francona doesn't worry about the incident having any carryover.

"He got himself in a predicament where he felt threatened, so he kind of took the offensive," said Francona. "And he paid his price. Now, it's over and it wasn't anything that was premediated. He just got himself in a spot where it was uncomfortable and it happened. He served his suspension and it's over."

Tavarez didn't pitch in Tuesday's game.

DiNardo again on Saturday: Lenny DiNardo was solid enough in his first start of the season (five innings, six hits, two runs) on Monday to earn another turn in the rotation on Saturday at Toronto. In that one, DiNardo will be opposed by one of the best pitchers in the game in Roy Halladay.

The Red Sox are depending on DiNardo to hold down the fort until David Wells (right knee woes) is healthy enough to come off the disabled list.

Another look at Coco: Center fielder Coco Crisp is scheduled to have his splint removed on Thursday so that the medical staff can reevaluate the fracture at the base of his left index finger.

"We'll go by what the new X-rays say," said Crisp. "If the crack has gotten smaller or if it's healed, we'll take it from there. I don't know what it's going to say yet. We're just waiting on that one."

Crisp will stay in Boston when the Red Sox begin their nine-game road trip on Friday. He will have daily workouts at Fenway Park along with rehabbing outfielder Gabe Kapler.

Manny's mashes: One of the best signs from Tuesday's win was Manny Ramirez producing three RBIs and ripping his first extra-basehit of the season.

While it has been odd to see Ramirez get off to such a slow start, it appears he is ready to go on one of those patented stretches where he carries his team.

"Manny tonight fouled off some pitches, he was so close, everything looked so good, he was just a flick away," said Youkilis. "We know when Manny is ready to get hot. I think it's going to be pretty exciting to see what happens in the next week or so."

Decision looming on Stern: Following Thursday's game, Adam Stern will have fulfilled his remaining 17 days of Rule 5 eligibility, meaning that the Red Sox will have the option of sending him to Triple-A Pawtucket.

With Crisp still out for the foreseeable future, the club may opt to keep Stern around so he can start against right-handed pitching. But if they do decide to send Stern out, Willie Harris, a left-handed batter with plenty of Major League experience, could replace him on the roster.

After a solid first couple of games, Stern is hitting .180. But he made a game-saving catch to end Tuesday's win.

Stern said that his uncertain status isn't keeping him awake at night.

"Whatever happens happens," said Stern. "I have a game to play in [Wednesday]. We're doing well, the team is going good and of course you want to stick around and be part of something special."

Coming up: Right-hander Curt Schilling will try to maintain his fast start (3-0, 1.64 ERA) when he faces the Devil Rays at 7:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday in the middle game of this three-game series. Tampa Bay counters with righty Doug Waechter.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.