Youkilis improving, but remains at rest

Youkilis improving, but remains at rest

BOSTON -- On Friday, for the fourth straight night, manager Terry Francona posted a lineup card that did not include first baseman Kevin Youkilis.

Though the Red Sox miss the bat and glove of Youkilis, his injury -- a sore left side -- is something that can worsen significantly if he is rushed back into action.

"The update is, he's better," Francona said. "He's just not ready to play. He is really improving today, which is good. In that area, I don't want to make a mistake and come back too quick and set a guy backward, then he ends up being a DL candidate. I don't want to do that. We're just trying to use good sense and let him get better. He is stepping up his activities today, which is good. He's just not ready to play."

Jason Bay has been swinging a hot bat in the cleanup spot in the absence of Youkilis. Jeff Bailey again filled in at first base, batting seventh.

Youkilis said recently that he's experienced some discomfort in the area for a couple of weeks, and the Red Sox think that it worsened after he was plunked by a couple of pitches.

"He got hit twice in a five-day span, and I think everyone felt like it was a deep bruise that spasmed up on him because of the bruise," Francona said. "It wasn't a swing. I know he took the swing the other night and felt it. I think they think it's more of a ... like a reaction to the bruise. The muscles kind of spasm. He got tight in that area. I know that it can get a little bit vague. He got hit directly twice in a row, and the second one set him back."

The good news on the injury front is that leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury was back in there after missing the past two games with tightness in his right hamstring.

And David Ortiz, who missed Thursday's game with a stiff neck, also returned. Ortiz, who entered Friday's game still homerless this season, put on a show during batting practice, hitting a barrage of tape-measure shots. In other words, the neck no longer seemed to be any type of issue.

"David came in after BP last night -- he took a swing in BP and we've all done it, you sneeze or you get that thing in your neck and it kept getting stiffer and stiffer as opposed to looser and looser," Francona said. "I don't know, 6:15, 6:30-ish, we went ahead and redid [the lineup]. He looks pretty good today. That's good for us."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.