BOSTON -- Though Kevin Youkilis underwent season-ending surgery on his right thumb on Aug. 6, the first baseman has not ruled out playing in the month of October.

Of course, for that to happen, the Red Sox would first have to qualify for the postseason. They entered Tuesday night's game against the Angels trailing the Yankees and Rays by 5 1/2 games in the American League East and the AL Wild Card standings.

Youkilis said that doctors didn't put the thought of a postseason return in his head.

"That's me," Youkilis said. "I hope I can come back and play. There's got to be a lot to happen. We've got to win to get in the playoffs and then, that's the greatest thing I'm hoping for, is for all these guys to do that and who knows. I might not be able to play at all, but I'm going to try to give myself the best chance to play in the playoffs if we make it."

One thing that makes it hard for Youkilis and the doctors to pinpoint exactly when he will be back is that there's no precedent for a baseball player tearing the adductor muscle in his thumb. Youkilis had his surgery performed by Dr. Thomas Graham at the Cleveland Clinic.

"I don't think anyone has had this, the [torn] adductor muscle," Youkilis said. "[Dr. Graham] said Shaquille O'Neal in the playoffs, he ripped the tendon off and the adductor muscle. Sometimes you'll do the tendon, but he's never seen it with just the adductor muscle. He's seen the muscle come off, but also the tendon usually tears, too. It's usually the tendon of the thumb and the muscle."

Though the lasting image of the injury is Youkilis shaking his thumb in pain during his at-bat against the Indians on Aug. 2, he said it started before that.

"It was on the West Coast trip [from July 19-28]," said Youkilis. "I forget what day or when it actually occurred. But it was over a good amount period, but it was definitely on the West Coast trip and when we came home."

At first, he didn't think it was all that significant.

"Oh, I mean, it just felt like a bruise," said Youkilis. "[I] felt like I bruised it, like hitting-wise, you get jammed a lot and do all that stuff. You see guys shake their hand because it hurts a little bit. It was like that. I don't know. It just didn't go away. Usually it goes away, sometimes you get it for a day or two, and a lot of times it goes away."

Youkilis will get his stitches removed shortly and transition into a softer cast. He will start with some hand exercises and go from there.

"It stinks, but it's one of those things where it happens. You hope you don't get hurt when you play baseball, but it's not a career-threatening injury, I don't think," said Youkilis. "The doctors are pretty excited that I can come back and play. We don't know the timetable, we have to see when the stitches come out and all that, but hopefully I can play in the playoffs."

Patterson lands on DL with strained neck

BOSTON -- With Dustin Pedroia returning to the Red Sox's starting lineup Tuesday, the club optioned reliever Dustin Richardson back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox also made another move before Tuesday's game, placing outfielder Eric Patterson on the 15-day disabled list with a strained neck and recalling Daniel Nava.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he noticed something wrong with Patterson when the team got off their flight from Texas.

"Patterson was walking around like me. He couldn't bend his neck. So I grabbed him and said, 'It's OK. Let's talk to you tomorrow,'" Francona said. "It didn't really get better, so he called in."

Francona said he believes the injury to be nothing two weeks on the disabled list can't cure.

"I have no doubt this is a two-week injury," said Francona. "But I don't know that we can really feel comfortable about playing short, so we talked to Eric and decided to place him on the disabled list and we recalled Daniel Nava."

In 29 games with the Red Sox since being traded from the Oakland Athletics earlier this season, Patterson is batting .254 with two home runs and six RBIs.

Richardson has appeared in 19 games with the Red Sox this season, accumulating a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out nine.

Worth noting

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Casey Kelly has been shut down for the rest of the season with a lat injury, said Mike Hazen, Boston's director of player development. Kelly went 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA for Double-A Portland in his first full pro season as a pitcher. He will likely complete his innings for the season in the Arizona Fall League. The injury is not considered serious. ... Hideki Okajima (right hamstring strain) with throw Tuesday and then again Thursday, and if everything goes as planned, he could come back as soon as Sunday. "If everything goes according to plan, I think we would have him go out Sunday," said manager Terry Francona. "I think there's a schedule, but that's getting a little bit ahead." ... After Tuesday's 6-0 victory, Francona said Jason Varitek's fractured right foot has callused over, yet is still not to the point of where the team can turn him loose and play. "The plan is to keep the progression going," said Francona. ... Mike Cameron is doing better in his recovery from a lower abdominal strain and Francona will sit down with him in the next few days. "We need to sit with him the next couple of days because I think he's starting to get that feeling like maybe he can start doing more," said Francona. "So I talked to [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and [trainer] Mike Reinold and [doctor] Tom Gill a little about that. So hopefully the next couple of days we'll sit with Cam to see where to go now."