Middlebrooks starts at DH, Youk mans hot corner

Middlebrooks starts at DH, Youk mans hot corner

Middlebrooks starts at DH, Youk mans hot corner
BOSTON -- Manager Bobby Valentine came up with a new solution to his dilemma at third base on Sunday.

Valentine's lineup for Sunday's series finale vs. the Braves featured rookie Will Middlebrooks as the designated hitter and Kevin Youkilis at third base. The two have been battling it out for playing time at the hot corner this month.

Youkilis was a healthy scratch the previous three games with the red-hot Middlebrooks getting the nod at third. On Saturday, the veteran voiced his displeasure with his reduced playing time.

"You want to play. I definitely want to play the game and enjoy it and have fun," Youkilis said. "I don't know my situation. To be honest, I was never told what's going on here -- let's get that straight."

He's been the subject of swirling trade rumors, but Valentine said that did not factor into the decision to play Youkilis on Sunday.

"I don't think it's directly related to anything other than trying to win a ballgame and keep him as sharp as possible," the manager said.

Middlebrooks has made a strong case to remain in the lineup. The 23-year-old is 10-for-14 with three homers, nine RBIs and three doubles in his last five games.

With Middlebrooks making his first career start at DH, David Ortiz was out of the lineup at home for the first time this year. Ortiz is 0-for-11 over the past three games.

"Talking to him last night I felt he could use a day [off]," Valentine said. "David was out of the strike zone more than he has been in a while. David said, 'Maybe I could use it.'"

In his last three starts entering Sunday, Youkilis went 4-for-10 with two doubles and two walks. He's hitting .225 with four homers and 13 RBIs this year.