Kevin Youkilis returns to lineup

BOSTON -- A day after he complained that he was kept in the dark as to his playing situation, and as trade rumors swirled so strongly that many observers figured he would be shipped out of town before the weekend ended, Kevin Youkilis found himself back in the Red Sox's lineup Sunday.

Youkilis, who started the game at third base and was sixth in the batting order against the Atlanta Braves, received a standing ovation from the Fenway Park fans when he came to the plate in the second inning. When Youkilis left for a pinch runner in the seventh, he received another, longer ovation.

Will Middlebrooks, who is 10-for-14 (.714) with three home runs and nine RBIs in his last five games, served as the designated hitter and batted third. That gave David Ortiz his first day off at home all season.

Youkilis said Saturday, the third straight day he was out of the starting lineup, that he had not discussed the matter with manager Bobby Valentine, contrary to the skipper's assertion one day earlier that the two had ironed it out.

"You want to play. I definitely want to play the game and enjoy it and have fun," Youkilis said Saturday. "I don't know my situation. To be honest, I was never told what's going on here -- let's get that straight."

Valentine said Sunday the insertion of Youkilis in the lineup meant nothing in terms of a potential trade.

"I don't think so. It's not directly related to anything, other than trying to win a ballgame and keep him as sharp as possible," Valentine said, adding that he wants Youkilis to get his legs moving and to give Middlebrooks a day to rest his legs.

The struggling Youkilis has been linked with several teams in trade rumors, and speculation grew that the fact he and his manager were not on the same page would speed up the process of sending him elsewhere.

Youkilis has quietly gone 4-for-10 with two doubles and two walks in his last three games.

Tony Lee is a contributor for ESPNBoston.com.