Youk making progress; return date still uncertain

Youk making progress; return date still uncertain

BOSTON -- Sometimes you need to walk before you can run, and that's how the Red Sox are proceeding with Kevin Youkilis as he recovers from a lower back strain.

"Youk's going to start a walking program today," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I mean, he's walking. But as they explained it to me, [he'll be moving] probably backward and forward and getting into the pelvic movement that's needed. He's progressing. He'll stay back and not come with us [to Kansas City], because he doesn't need the plane ride for his back and he has rehab being done here."

The first day Youkilis is eligible to return from the disabled list is May 14, when the Red Sox open a two-game series at home against the Mariners. Will he be ready by then?

"Again, it's tough to put the clock on an injury," Valentine said. "When Youk's ready, he'll definitely let us know."

In the meantime, highly touted prospect Will Middlebrooks will continue to start at third base. Middlebrooks missed Saturday's game with cramps in his left hamstring but returned to action on Sunday.