Kevin Youkilis' strikeout in the eighth inning with the bases loaded was a major missed opportunity. Credit: Getty Images Kevin Youkilis missed his seventh game of the season due to a back injury on Sunday.
Credit: Getty Images

Kevin Youkilis’ recent history of back issues has cropped up again. He was not in the starting lineup Sunday, and the Yankees said he would undergo an MRI on Monday.

Youkillis missed six games with lower back soreness before returning Saturday, but when the starting lineup was released approximately 60 minutes before first pitch, Youkilis was not on it.

Manager Joe Girardi started off his pregame press conference by shrugging off the injury but by the end of his session, his tone reflected more of a concern for someone who has three hits in his last 31 at-bats.

 

“It's a little concerning for me,” Girardi said. “I've said all along that backs can be tricky. I'm a guy that's had to deal with it for a number of years, and sometimes you have no idea why it acts up. Sometimes it's maybe one play or something you do, but sometimes it can be as simple as bending over to pick up a ball or something, and all of a sudden you lock up.

“It's concerning. I sure hope that we're not where we were when he first did it. I hope it's just a little stiff and we can get him back in there. Really, the only thing that's going to tell us is time.”

Rivera makes it 9-for-9

In his first month back from last year’s season-ending knee injury, Mariano Rivera has converted all nine of his save opportunities.

Rivera has allowed two runs and nine hits in 10 innings while striking out nine.

Three of those hits came Friday night when Rivera loaded the bases on three singles. In his first appearance since Friday, Rivera needed 10 pitches to get a lineout, a strikeout and a groundout.

“I felt Mo threw the ball well in spring training,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really throw a lot of back-to-back and you wondered how he’d really respond throwing three out of four days. He’s a little bit like [Jeter] and Andy; there’s not much they’re going to do that’s going to surprise you. You’re so used to seeing the way they go about their business and it’s just what you expect.”

Rivera’s nine saves are the most he has had in any April.

Anthopoulos talks Reyes, infield defense

The Blue Jays lost six of the first 10 games former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes appeared in before he suffered a severely sprained left ankle. Their defense was shaky at times and since then it has not been much better.

Toronto came into Sunday’s game with a league-leading 16 errors, a league-worst 45 double plays turned and the fourth-worst fielding percentage in the American League at .982.

Part of it has been the inability to prevent infield hits. Since Reyes went down, balls classified as infield hits or ones that have deflected off infielders into the outfield have led to 12 runs. The biggest instances this weekend were two infield hits on Thursday night that preceded Robinson Cano’s three-run home run in a game Toronto held a 3-1 lead at the time.

“You’re losing your shortstop who does so many things [and he’s] a catalyst,” Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said before Sunday’s game. “His loss is definitely a significant loss. I just don’t think we can sit there and we’re in the position because we lost Reyes. I don’t think it’s fair as a team but no question you have a guy like that back with everything he brings at the top of the order, the offense, the arm strength, the energy that he brings, he’ll be a huge boost to anytime. So we’ll be excited when we finally end up getting him back.”

Anthopoulos said the cast has been removed from Reyes’ ankle and he currently is in a walking boot. The Blue Jays are hopeful Reyes can resume walking in about 10 days and expect him back in July.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.

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