Youkilis rebounds from injury quickly
First baseman returns to lineup after getting hit on hand
CHICAGO -- As it turned out, Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn't need to spend the club's off-day wondering if first baseman Kevin Youkilis would return to the lineup for Friday night's opener of a four-game series against the White Sox.
Youkilis, who sustained a contusion of his right hand after being hit by a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday night, bumped into Francona in the lobby of the team hotel on Thursday.
"He said, 'I'm fine.' That was nice news," said Francona.
At a time Youkilis has taken over in the cleanup spot for the departed Manny Ramirez while swinging a red-hot bat, the Red Sox could ill-afford to lose him for any length of time.
Youkilis said this injury didn't come close to comparing to last September, when Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang struck him on the outside of the hand with a sinker. That time around, Youkilis missed nearly a week of action. This time, the pitch got him on the inner part of the hand, toward the bottom.
"It should be OK," said Youkilis. "It's not in a bad spot. Last year on the outside was a lot worse. This is good, because it's not in the joint."
The key for Youkilis is that the swelling went down in short order.
As for hitting fourth -- a move Francona started on Monday -- Youkilis was typically unfazed.
"I go out there and play, and wherever they put me, I'm going to play," said Youkilis. "It has no bearing on me when I go up there and hit. I just go up there and try to have good at-bats and try to help this team win. It's not a bad spot to hit. I don't try to hit home runs. I just go up there and try to have a good at-bat. Basically, that's it. Just try to keep it simple."
Youkilis has started 17 games batting second, 11 at cleanup, 22 in the fifth spot and 47 batting sixth.
"I like hitting down in the order. Four is always fun," Youkilis said. "Five, six, three, it doesn't matter. When you hit first and second sometimes and you're not there on a steady basis, it can be a little overwhelming. For me, if I get stuck in a spot and I'm there, it becomes a routine over time. It's all good for me. I like the routine more than anything."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.