Sore back forces Youkilis onto DL

The Sports Xchange

--3B Kevin Youkilis was unlikely to play for several more days because of what he called an "irritated joint" in his lower back. Thus, the Red Sox placed him on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 29. "It's going to take me three or four days, that's what they're telling me, to try to get through and not try to do too much baseball stuff that could irritate it more," Youkilis said. "(Tuesday) was not good. (Wednesday) it felt a lot better."

Youkilis has been working with clinical consultant Dan Dyrek, an addition to the Red Sox's medical staff this season who once helped Larry Bird through back problems. Youkilis began feeling stiffness while taking swings in the batting cage Sunday in Chicago. His back flared again during infield practice Monday. The Red Sox are calling the injury a lower back strain.

Youkilis has gotten off to a slow start, batting .219 and slugging .344 with two homers, nine RBI and a .292 on-base percentage.

"We've got to get ahead of this thing with Youk," GM Ben Cherington said. "He's been battling the back, and we feel like the season is too long to have him swimming upstream for too much longer."

--RHP Josh Beckett threw 126 pitches Sunday, then arrived at Fenway Park on Monday and reported more stiffness than usual in his right latissimus muscle. And although the Red Sox insist they aren't overly concerned by the situation, they decided to skip Beckett's next start and call up RHP Aaron Cook, plugging him into the rotation to start Saturday against the Orioles.

"At different points of the year, (Beckett) might pitch with it, but we just wanted to be cautious and get ahead of it," GM Ben Cherington said. "We feel optimistic that he'll get skipped once and be back in there the next time around. We just want to be smart and get ahead of it."

The move also allowed the Red Sox to promote Cook, who had a May 1 opt-out clause in his minor league contract. Given the success he had in the minors (3-0, 1.89 ERA) and his track record as a reliable starter over the past decade with the Rockies, the Red Sox were determined to keep the 33-year-old sinkerballer, even if it meant using him as a reliever.

--1B Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Wednesday night, stretching his slump to 0-for-17 since a fourth-inning RBI single Saturday night in Chicago. "This game is all on me," Gonzalez said. "I had two great opportunities, and I didn't come through. It was one of those things. I'll make a definite point to not let that happen." Expectations for Gonzalez are lofty after he batted .338 with 27 homers, 117 RBI and a .958 OPS last year, his first with the Red Sox. Through 24 games this year, he's batting .250 with only two homers, seven extra-base hits and a .370 slugging percentage.

"I think he's just tired," manager Bobby Valentine said. "He's played the entire time. His timing and recognition of the strike zone is just a little off. He'll be fine."

--RHP Daniel Bard is a power pitcher, so it was unusual Wednesday night that he recorded only one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings against the Athletics. "I just had a hard time putting guys away," Bard said. "I felt like, especially early in the game, I was getting to a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 counts. I would make those pitches on the edges of the zone, and, for whatever reason, I wasn't getting chases. I was a little bewildered coming out." Bard's best explanation was that he didn't establish his breaking ball early enough in the game, leaving the Athletics hitters to sit on his fastball and foul it off until they were able to put it in play.

--RHP Mark Prior has signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. Besieged by injuries for several seasons, Prior has reported to Fort Myers, Fla., and will pitch in extended spring training before getting a minor league assignment, according to GM Ben Cherington. The 31-year-old veteran hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006 with the Cubs. Prior was an 18-game winner for Chicago in 2003 before being derailed by injuries. In 2004, he missed two months with an Achilles tendon injury. He missed the entire 2007 season because of shoulder surgery, then re-injured the shoulder in 2008 and missed another season. The Red Sox intend to use Prior as a reliever in the minors.

--RHP Clayton Mortensen, called up from Class AAA Pawtucket before the game, pitched three scoreless innings against the A's. He allowed one hit and no walks, and he struck out six. Mortensen had allowed one earned run in 10 innings for Pawtucket. His arrival gave the Red Sox a 12-man pitching staff again, as the team optioned 1B/OF Lars Anderson back to Class AAA. Anderson went 1-for-8 (.125) in six games with Boston.

12 -- Doubles this season for RF Ryan Sweeney, already surpassing his total of 11 last season with Oakland.

"Just a click off in the timing department. I'm just a little late on fastballs, just a little early on off-speed pitches. It happens. We've got a big series coming up with Baltimore. I'll be sure to be right then." -- 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who is in an 0-for-17 slump.

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