ST. PETERSBURG -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine provided brief, but harmless, answers Sunday to the first few questions about Kevin Youkilis returning to Boston with the White Sox on Monday.

"He's a good player," Valentine said, "and he's hitting well and seems to be in better health."

Valentine hadn't thought much about Youkilis coming back, but he offered that it would be "exciting" for the former Red Sox third baseman.

But Valentine referred back to the controversial comment he made earlier this season -- about how Youkilis didn't look like he was into the game -- when he was asked about the "friction" between him and Youkilis.

"I think that's a joke," Valentine said. "I wasn't here last year, and there was no friction in Spring Training. So I think that's a joke. But I'll take all that. I think that the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of, and I don't think he ever wanted to get over it."

Valentine said he had "no idea" what his relationship with Youkilis was like after that comment, but it was "whatever he wanted it to be."

"We didn't have a strained relationship in Spring Training, and I wasn't around last year," Valentine added.

Youkilis was traded to Chicago on June 24 to make room at third base for rookie Will Middlebrooks, but also because of his poor relationship with Valentine and his unhappiness with the manager's lack of communication. But Valentine also mentioned last season, seemingly a nod to the idea that Youkilis played a part in the stories about drinking in the Red Sox's clubhouse and other rifts in the organization.

Valentine said he was aware that some of Youkilis' teammates might have had an issue with him after last year, but he never knew whether it would become a bigger problem.

"I don't know," Valentine said. "I was a newcomer. I inherited that situation, didn't cause it."

Adrian makes unexpected return to lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Adrian Gonzalez was unexpectedly back in the Red Sox's starting lineup for Sunday's series finale at Tropicana Field despite being described Saturday by manager Bobby Valentine as "real doubtful."

Gonzalez, who was scratched Friday and sat Saturday with back spasms that started when he bent down to talk to a child in a stroller, came to the park Sunday feeling better. On top of that, Valentine said, he tested better in the training room and got the green light to play.

"He said he's ready to go today, and that's very good news," Valentine said. "I was a little surprised, actually. Pleasantly surprised."

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney, meanwhile, had the day off Sunday with left hamstring tightness. He wasn't available Saturday but hoped after the game that he could play Sunday. Sweeney said he has been trying to change the way he runs after going on the disabled list with soreness in the sesamoid bone in his left foot, which might have played a part in the injury.

Having to play on the uncomfortable artificial turf at Tropicana Field wouldn't have helped the situation any, either. Sweeney said Saturday night: "Turf's probably the worst thing for it."

"Another day is probably the way to go with him," Valentine said Sunday.

Red Sox place Atchison on DL, recall Tazawa

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox placed Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list due to right forearm tightness before Sunday's game and recalled Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Atchison's placement on the disabled list is retroactive to Saturday. Tazawa arrived in Boston's clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Sunday morning and was active for the club's series finale against the Rays.

Atchison leads all qualified Red Sox relievers with a 1.76 ERA and ranks second in the American League with 46 relief innings spanning 37 appearances. He threw two-thirds of an inning Friday against Tampa Bay and allowed an unearned run on one hit with one strikeout.

This is Tazawa's second time joining the Red Sox this season, as he made five scoreless relief appearances from April 18-30. He had four strikeouts, no walks and five hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings of work. He is 3-2 with four saves and a 2.55 ERA this season for Pawtucket, racking up 56 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings.

Worth noting

• Carl Crawford went 2-for-5 with a run while playing all nine innings in left field with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night and still seems to be in line to make his 2012 debut Monday. Valentine is publicly avoiding setting the expectations too high for Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142 million contract before the 2011 season.

"I'm not expecting any immediate impact. Just expecting one of nine, a guy who can go out there and be a contributor," Valentine said. "I hope that whatever he needs is provided him from his surroundings. I hope he's healthy. I think if he's healthy, he'll do fine."

• Valentine said Dustin Pedroia (right thumb strain) has been "swinging the bat better than he's swung it in months in batting practice." The manager didn't come out and say Pedroia will return as soon as he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list but guessed it would be "close" based on how he's looked so far.