Neck improving, Crawford returns to lineup

Neck improving, Crawford returns to lineup

Neck improving, Crawford returns to lineup
BOSTON -- After missing Monday's doubleheader with the Orioles due to neck stiffness, Carl Crawford returned to the Red Sox's lineup Tuesday night in his original spot, batting sixth.

Crawford has hit much better in the season's second half, posting a .271 average and .738 OPS and should at least provide a boost with his Gold Glove defense in left field.

"I think [he feels] good enough to play," said manager Terry Francona. "It's sore, but he's able to move. Yesterday he couldn't move, just couldn't turn his head. That's good news."

Adrian Gonzalez, who is dealing with left calf tightness and was seen limping around the clubhouse following Monday night's 18-9 win over the Orioles, remained in the lineup and hit an RBI double off the Green Monster in his first at-bat.

"Speed's not a big part of his game," Francona said. "But especially as much as Gonzi's on base, you've got a guy hitting .330-something, you're going to have to go first to third or score at some point. So I guess the hope is that he can manage it while still being productive. I hope it gets better. It already did improve a little bit today. Maybe he's a quick healer."

Kevin Youkilis (sports hernia, left hip soreness), though, remained out of the lineup. The third baseman hasn't played since Thursday, while Mike Aviles, who has played most of the hot corner in his absence, took his place again Tuesday.

"He's pretty sore," Francona said. "We weren't going to do baseball activities for a while anyway. We'll continue to try to do some of the core work, things like that, maybe check in later in the week, but he's pretty sore."

When asked if it was possible that Youkilis could miss the rest of the regular season, Francona said, "Anything is possible."

Dealing with right forearm stiffness, Dan Wheeler, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 7 and hasn't pitched a clean inning since Aug. 27, was likely unavailable Tuesday.

Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.