Kevin Youkilis’ minor-league rehab assignment will start tomorrow at Triple-A, according to Joseph McDonald of ESPN Boston.
Youkilis, who’s been out since April 27 with a back injury and struggled before being shut down, is scheduled to be in Pawtucket’s lineup at designated hitter and get three at-bats.
Barring a setback he’ll then play defense Thursday, presumably at third base, and potentially be cleared to come off the disabled list as soon as Friday. Of course, with fill-in Will Middlebrooks seemingly playing far too well for the Red Sox to send him back to Triple-A right now it’s unclear where Youkilis fits in the team’s immediate plans anyway.
Middlebrooks has hit .304 with four homers and a 1.021 OPS in 11 games since debuting on May 2, whereas Youkilis has hit just .205 with 52 strikeouts in 55 games since last season’s All-Star break.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.