CHICAGO -- When the season started, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn't sound like a big fan of catcher-pitcher pairings. However, one appears to be developing on his team.
Sunday marked the fourth straight Josh Beckett start in which Kelly Shoppach was the man behind the plate.
"Actually, it's his birthday," Valentine said of Shoppach, who turned 32 on Sunday. "I like playing players on birthdays."
For many years, Beckett worked with Jason Varitek in nearly every start.
In Beckett's first start of the season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught him. That game didn't go well, as Beckett was tagged for seven runs -- including five homers -- over 4 2/3 innings.
But the last four times out with Shoppach, Beckett is 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA. After allowing three runs on three hits in the first inning of Sunday's 4-1 loss, Beckett gave up three hits over the next 5 2/3 innings. He finished with eight strikeouts and three walks over 6 2/3 innings.
Still, Valentine didn't want to make any commitments.
"I like all the pairings," said Valentine. "The way it looks right now, it looks like our catchers and pitchers are working very well together. Matter of fact, I can't think of a better caught game than Salty did yesterday. Worked in 21 changeups for Jon Lester. I haven't seen that since I've been managing, and he had swings and misses on changeups. Never let Jon get out of the game plan. It was very, very good."
But how about Beckett and Shoppach?
"With Beckett and Kelly, they have a little something going," Valentine said. "I'm not writing home about it yet."
Youkilis scratched with back tightness
CHICAGO -- Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was scratched from Sunday afternoon's lineup against the White Sox because of lower left back tightness. The good news is that it doesn't sound like an injury that will linger.
Manager Bobby Valentine felt after Sunday's 4-1 loss to the White Sox that Youkilis could be right back in the lineup for Monday night's game at Fenway against the Athletics.
"I was just really tight today and it locked up and they decided to scratch me and use me later on in the game if they were going to use me," Youkilis said.
The elements might have played a role in the injury. The first three games of the series were played in frigid conditions.
"It's probably just three days in the freezing cold." Youkilis said. "I don't know, I felt good, I felt good all week, I just woke up and it was tight. I went and did all my usual stuff and it just tightened up. Instead of missing three days or a week, they kind of took the cautious route with it."
Valentine inserted Nick Punto at third base, and bumped Cody Ross up to the No. 6 spot in the batting order. Punto batted seventh.
Youkilis is hitting .219 with two homers and nine RBIs. He showed signs of possibly breaking out on Thursday night, when he clubbed a grand slam.
A couple of weeks ago, Youkilis was bothered by groin tightness. It was Punto's third start of the season, but first since April 16.
Valentine loving the Pedroia experience
CHICAGO -- Bobby Valentine thought he had a healthy appreciation for Dustin Pedroia from afar in his former role as an ESPN broadcaster. Now, he is realizing you can't truly appreciate the second baseman until you watch him day in and day out.
Unprompted, Valentine started raving about Pedroia during his Sunday morning session with the media.
"You know what, during this little road trip here, Dustin has played great defense," the Red Sox manager said. "I guess you guys are used to it. I haven't seen it [on a daily basis]. Every day, he comes up with a big play, or two or three, that are spectacular. Unbelievable. He's special. Seeing it is believing it."
As much as Valentine enjoys Pedroia's talents, he's just as impressed by his infectious energy.
"It's amazing -- consistently amazing. It's unbelievable," Valentine said. "He's in there with the guys, so I only get echoes. If I'm in the dugout with him early or out early, it's fun. It's always baseball. How could it not be fun? It's what he wants to be doing. It's great. Passion and commitment, right? He's got it."