Almost three weeks ago, Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis hit the Disabled List because of a back injury. Fortunately, the Sox had a worthy replacement: 23-year-old prospect Will Middlebrooks, who'd been raking in the minors.
Middlebrooks has been playing third base almost every day in Youkilis's absence, and he's kept raking.
Which figures to have left Bobby Valentine in a bit of a quandary: When Youkilis was ready to come off the DL, would Middlebrooks and his .500-some slugging percentage really be returned to the International League?
First base wouldn't be an option for Youkilis or Middlebrooks, because of Adrian Gonzalez.
Designated Hitter wouldn't be an option for Youkilis or Middlebrooks, because of David Ortiz.
Or so things seemed. With six Red Sox outfielders on the Disabled List, Valentine's decided to get creative.
Last weekend, with the Sox playing by National League rules, Valentine handed first base to Ortiz and sent Gonzalez to right field, where he'd started three games earlier in his career.
Just an interleague thing, though.
Nope. With Youkilis coming off the DL for Tuesday night's game against the first-place Orioles, Valentine left Middlebrooks at third base, sent Gonzalez back to right field, and inserted Youkilis at first base. Without all those injured outfielders, the Sox probably would have swallowed hard and sent Middlebrooks back to the minors. But given their incredibly limited options in the outfield, Gonzalez's fielding deficiencies should be more than offset by his hitting edge over any actual "outfielder" on the roster.
We'll see how long this lasts. Probably until somebody else gets hurt. Which, the way things have gone for the Sox this season, won't be long at all.