BOSTON -- The Red Sox got their cleanup hitter and third baseman back Friday night, as Kevin Youkilis returned from his stint on the 15-day disabled list that lasted exactly 15 days.
The two weeks off was just what Youkilis needed, not only for the back injury that sidelined him, but also to rest the many other parts of his body that were nagging through the rigors of a long season.
"You know what? Sometimes a forced break, because of one thing, helps the rest of your body," said manager Terry Francona. "He was so beat up. He was hitting balls off of both ankles, and the way he attacks first base when he runs over it. I'm sure he doesn't feel like it's the first game of the year, but I'm sure it will do him some good."
Youkilis, who entered the night hitting .266 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs, was looking forward to getting back in the mix.
"No one in this room is 100 percent healthy," Youkilis said. "It's September and we just go out and play the game. But I feel pretty good right now. I'm just ready to play ball."
While Dustin Pedroia thrived in the cleanup spot while Youkilis was out, Boston's lineup looked a lot deeper in the opener of a three-game series vs. the American League West-leading Rangers. Pedroia was restored to the No. 2 hole, and Youkilis batted fourth. Jed Lowrie hit sixth and played shortstop.
"The hope is that it pays off tonight," Francona said. "Over the course of a bigger sample size, having him right smack in the order is huge. Tonight, Jed can hit sixth off a lefty. That's a little bit of a luxury. Protect David [Ortiz], but not have him hitting fifth. It's good. One big hitter in the middle makes everybody better."
Youkilis is confident the injury is behind him.
"Yeah, I think it was needed to go on the DL. It wasn't something that just, 'Oh, we'll just put you on the DL.' I needed it," Youkilis said. "I probably would have done worse damage to myself if I kept playing. It was a good move on everyone's part to do it, so hopefully we'll have no problems the rest of the year."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.