BOSTON -- Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is eager to return to Boston's starting lineup as he continues to make improvements in his ailing back. But he knows he is not the one setting the time table."Like I said, you'd have to ask the training staff and all that," Youkilis said. "I'm just following orders and doing what they tell me to do. You know me -- I think I can go play right now. That's my opinion, and that's how I always am. I'm just going to wait and whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it." Youkilis is eligible to return on Monday. However, he hasn't resumed baseball activities, so that might be a stretch. "They haven't given me that so I'm basically following their orders and the past couple of days I've felt great and have been moving around and doing what they tell me to do." Youkilis said. "And hopefully soon I can do baseball activities, because I'm pretty excited to get back and playing." And if you think Youkilis is nervous because the man filling in for him, Will Middlebrooks, is tearing the cover off the ball, you couldn't be more wrong. Youkilis was leading the cheers from his living room when Middlebrooks had a monster game against the Royals on Monday night. "It's awesome," Youkilis said. "I was watching the game. I was joking that they should put the foul pole in center field so he can hit it off that, too. It was pretty amazing to watch him. It's great for him to come up here at this stage and perform at a high level."
Beckett knocked around on heels of golf issue
BOSTON -- By the time Josh Beckett was booed off the Fenway Park mound on Thursday night following his shortest start since 2008, he might have wished he was back on a golf course.Beckett made his start just one day after the talk-show circuit was outraged by reports he was playing golf during a team off-day last week. The reason it became news is because on May 2, it was announced Beckett was scratched from his Saturday start against the Orioles with a minor ailment to his right lat, yet played golf the next day. A strong performance by Beckett against the Indians might have helped get the rabid fans of Red Sox Nation back on his side. Instead, he was shelled, giving up seven hits and seven runs over 2 1/3 innings. "I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them. My off-day is my off-day," Beckett said. When Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine came out to get Beckett, the boos thundered down around him. Unlike the questions about how he spent his off-day, Beckett took no exception to the boos. In fact, he believes he deserved them. "I pitched like [garbage]," Beckett said. "That's what happens. Smart fans." The last time Beckett made such a brief start was Aug. 17, 2008, at Toronto, when he also went 2 1/3 innings. As for the golf outing, Beckett and the Red Sox seemed unified in saying the uproar was much ado about nothing. In light of Beckett missing a start with at least some discomfort in his lat, does the righty understand why fans might have questioned that he was out golfing? "Not on my off-day," Beckett said. "We get 18 off-days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves." Clay Buchholz is the teammate who was with Beckett on the links last week. "The one thing I can say about Josh Beckett is he's a professional," said Buchholz. "He's not going to do anything that's going to make him not be ready to go out and do his job. I've been around him for a little while now. That's just the way he goes about his business. That's an off-day, and that's something that gets him away from the field. If he likes to do that, then that's what he likes to do. That's his decision." It probably wouldn't have been the story it was if not for Beckett being perceived as the centerpiece of the fried chicken and beer culture that, at times, permeated Boston's clubhouse during the collapse late last season. "I don't think it was a big deal at all, but people feel differently than I do, I guess," said Buchholz. "Just like last year. The whole beer and chicken thing wouldn't have been a story if we would have won and went to the playoffs. There's always got to be something to talk about. I think that's what it comes down to." Valentine also dismissed the story as a non-issue. "I've never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf," Valentine said. "Again, I didn't think he was injured when he was skipped."
Nava works way back to Boston
BOSTON -- The man who belted a grand slam on the first pitch of his career returned to Fenway Park on Thursday for the first time since 2010.Yes, Daniel Nava is back, and looking to give the Red Sox a boost in their injury-marred outfield. Playing without Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, Boston has been a little short in the left-handed-bat department. Nava, who is off to a strong start at Triple-A Pawtucket, is a switch-hitter. "Our outfielders have really been put to task, playing as much as they have been, and another left-handed bat to spell our right-handers, I thought, was necessary," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "Daniel's been real hot. [We] got great reports on him from Arnie [Beyeler, Pawtucket manager] and everybody who's seen him play, seemed like the right choice." Nava, who wasn't invited to Major League camp during Spring Training, fell off the radar a bit. Now he has a chance to reemerge. "I'm obviously happy to be back," Nava said. "I learned a lot last year, struggling and trying to find myself as a hitter again, just a lot of things, putting baseball in perspective. I'm glad to be back." To make room for Nava on the 25-man roster, the Red Sox had to option Clayton Mortensen back to Pawtucket. Valentine informed him of the move in the wee hours of Thursday morning, after the Red Sox returned from Kansas City. "About 4:45 this morning, when I called him into my office, I told him baseball and life isn't fair," Valentine said. "And it's not -- nowhere does it say it has to be fair, and this isn't fair to him. He pitched plenty well enough to be on this staff, but he has an option and we needed a spot, and luckily he's the kind of professional guy that understood it totally." The Red Sox also had to add Nava to the 40-man roster, and to do so, they designated lefty Justin Thomas for assignment.
Damon focused in return to Fenway
BOSTON -- Indians outfielder Johnny Damon is worried more about finding his swing than getting booed in his latest return to Fenway Park."Fans are going to boo me," said Damon, who is with his fourth team since leaving the Red Sox following the 2005 season. "I'm used to it. I've been loved and hated." Damon signed with Cleveland on April 17. The outfielder has five hits in 30 at-bats (.167 batting average) in eight games since making his Indians debut on May 1. "I definitely need to start swinging the bat better," Damon said. "Hopefully we can get my bat going." The Fenway crowd has not been kind to Damon in his previous returns to Boston. He left the Red Sox to sign with the Yankees, followed by brief stops in Detroit and Tampa Bay. This time, though, he'll take the field with another member of the 2004 World Series champions: starting pitcher Derek Lowe. Still, Damon believes the crowd won't be cheering for him. "I'm not too sure, maybe more so for Derek," Damon said. "We'll see. I still went to New York and was with Tampa last year." Sitting in the visitor's dugout, Damon reminisced about his time in Boston, where he played from 2002-05. A lot has changed since then, however. Damon won his second World Series ring with the Yankees in '09 and says his days with the Red Sox feel long gone. "It seems like it's been a while," Damon said. "I know a lot of players have come and gone since then. It's strange, especially since how many teams I ended up playing for. I never really envisioned this."
Crawford working hard to get back
BOSTON -- Two weeks after being diagnosed with a sprained UCL in his left elbow, Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is eager to start taking the next step in his rehab."I'm trying to do exercises with it right now and just waiting to get clearance from the doctors, basically," said Crawford. "The pain from the shot has gone away, so now we're going to another transition where we can start some exercises with it. I still haven't been able to throw yet. I'm still a couple of weeks from throwing. That's pretty much where we're at." Could Crawford actually start throwing in a couple of weeks? "I want to say [that], but I'm not sure," Crawford said. "In an ideal situation, yes. But I can't honestly tell you exactly when." The left fielder, who was recovering from left wrist surgery before the elbow injury was diagnosed, thinks he will start hitting before throwing. "Wrist is doing fine, knock on wood, because I don't want to have any more setbacks from that, but my wrist is actually doing good," Crawford said. The question is this: How quickly can Crawford return to action once he is cleared to start throwing? "I'm not sure, actually. I hope it's fast," Crawford said. "I really don't know. I'm kind of going on the doctors, whatever program they make for me, I'm just going to follow that and let them know how I feel after. I hope it's quick."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.