Youkilis scratches with stiff back

March, 25, 2012
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Greetings from the spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays, where the Red Sox bus made an uneventful trip while yours truly managed to make two wrong turns on the 146-mile jaunt, which I could blame on my GPS except for the fact that the route hasn't changed in the 15 years since I've been coming to the Fort.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis was also scheduled to make the trip, but he scratched because of some lower back stiffness, staying back for treatment. Sounds pretty minor. Youkilis will get as many at-bats as he'd like in minor-league games on Monday, though he won't run the bases.

The more skittish among Red Sox fans may look at Youkilis's absence with alarm, since he has not played as many as 140 games in each of the last three years, injuries limiting him to 120 last season (lower back strain, sports hernia) and 102 in 2010 (torn muscle in his thumb).

The ubiquitous Nate Spears will play third in Youkilis's place.

Daniel Bard, still undeclared as a starter by Valentine, makes his fifth appearance Sunday and if all goes well should throw somewhere between 80 and 95 pitches. Valentine, who had noted with some concern that Bard had thrown just one changeup in his last outing, said he spoke with Bard about that and seems more concerned about Bard just having a good outing.

Bard has been described as a two-pitch pitcher without the change, but in addition to his high-90s fastball, he also throws a slider and two-seamed fastball. The change would be a fourth pitch. Curt Schilling, for one, doesn't see that pitch as critical to Bard's success, noting that he was never able to master a changeup, which Schilling called the hardest pitch to master, and said that Bard could learn a splitter with considerably more ease.

Schilling, on a recent edition of "Baseball Tonight" contended that "this situation is being mismanaged on an epically horrible scale" by Valentine. Schilling said there should be no doubt that Bard, whom he described as a potential No. 1, be in the rotation, and said that Valentine is undermining pitching coach Bob McClure with his meddling.

"Bobby is causing [Bard] to have problems he wouldn't be having except for things he's saying,'' Schilling said.

Here's the lineup:

Mike Aviles, ss
Jacoby Ellsbury, cf
Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
Darnell McDonald, lf
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Josh Kroeger, rf
Kelly Shoppach, c
Nate Spears, 3b
Jonathan Hee, 2b
Daniel Bard p

Kelly Johnson, 2b
Yunel Escobar, ss
Jose Bautista, rf
Adam Lind, 1b
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Brett Lawrie, 3b
Eric Thames, lf
Colby Rasmus, cf
Jeff Mathis, c
Aaron Laffey, lhp

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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