CHICAGO, IL: Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox connects on a grand slam scoring teammates David Ortiz #34, Adrian Gonzalez #28 and Ryan Sweeney #12 during the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Scott Podsednik isn't the only one back in the majors as of today, as Kevin Youkilis has ended his rehab assignment with Pawtucket, and is starting at first base for the Red Sox tonight.
Podsednik, however, is not starting, as it's Adrian Gonzalez playing in right field in Baltimore, while Marlon Byrd patrols center and Daniel Nava left. This is significant, because it means Will Middlebrooks remains in the majors, and at third base.
The idea of Gonzalez in right isn't the most pleasant given he's not the most fleet-footed Red Sox around, but there are a few things to keep in mind. This isn't the everyday, permanent solution -- Gonzalez will play in right as often he's comfortable with being there. The Red Sox offense, successful but missing plenty of pieces even without the loss of Cody Ross, would have also been without Middlebrooks had the Red Sox just sent him down to Pawtucket. Youkilis is likely going to play a better defensive first base than third when he gets the opportunity, and overall, Middlebrooks and Youkilis at the corners is likely more valuable than Youkilis and Gonzalez, at least defensively.
There's also the fact that the only thing that's new in this plan is the idea that the defensive arrangement would be used against AL teams. During interleague games on the road, Gonzalez was likely to appear in right a few times anyway. The injury to Ross means it needs to happen a few more times than planned.
Basically, a lot of the misgivings come out in the wash, as far as defensive drops are concerned, and the ability to keep Middlebrooks' bat around while simultaneously hoping Youkilis has something to offer offensively is too tempting to wave away for a team starting bench outfielders and a first baseman. It's not the most optimal plan, but when you're staring at the dozenth option on the depth chart for the outfield, it's time to get creative.
As with Podsednik earlier, the corresponding moves have not been announced yet, but Youkilis is only on the 40-man -- it's likely he'll assume one of Ryan Sweeney or Ross's vacant spots on the 25-man.