BOSTON -- Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is in the home stretch of his rehab from a lower back injury, but he was not quite ready to return to the roster on Monday, the first day he was eligible.
That gave top prospect Will Middlebrooks at least one more day in Boston's starting lineup. Fresh off his fourth home run in 10 games, Middlebrooks batted fifth in manager Bobby Valentine's lineup.
The way Youkilis is ramping back up, he could return any day. Perhaps Wednesday, when the Red Sox open a three-city road trip, would be the logical time for Youkilis to be activated.
"I have no idea," Valentine said. "Whenever the medical [staff] and Kevin say he's ready. All I'm saying is my eyes saw him take some ground balls and he looked good throwing, fielding. I wouldn't think he's very far away. He took 10 swings on a soft toss and about 30 dry swings. He's going to hit some balls today. He looked really good moving around."
But here is the question all Red Sox fans want to know: What becomes of Middlebrooks once Youkilis returns?
"I think that's a little premature," Valentine said. "We'll do exactly what's right. Those things, they usually play themselves out. No need to really make a decision until it's time to make a decision."
General manager Ben Cherington told csnne.com last week that Youkilis would retain his job once he was healthy.
Valentine was asked before Monday's game if there could be a scenario in which Middlebrooks would be a bench player rather than go back to the Minors.
"Sitting on the bench is not the place for very many players, especially good young talented players," Valentine said. "What would be the purpose of having someone sit the bench unless there was a useful purpose not being in the starting role but also being able to contribute to the team's wins? Now is there a place for him to do that? I'm not sure."
As for Middlebrooks, his start has been somewhat historic. According to Elias, Middlebrooks is the third player in Major League history to accumulate at least four homers and 13 RBIs in his first 10 games. The others? Alvin Davis with the 1984 Mariners and Mark Quinn for the 1999 Royals.