Monday July 16, 2012 | 06:17 AM

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is coming back to Boston a new man.

In 15 games since Boston traded Youkilis to the White Sox, he is batting .316 with three home runs.

Once Youkilis left, new Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks seemed to cool off. A hamstring injury did not help. But Middlebrooks appeared to be back to his hitting ways this weekend. His performance upped his average to .301. He also has hit 11 home runs. He is the present and future at third base.

While Youkilis’ return will be the emotional highlight of tonight, the bigger news for the Red Sox will be outfielder Carl Crawford coming off the disabled list (and who will he replace on the major league and 40-man rosters?).

Pawtucket featured a thriller on Sunday. The PawSox went 14 innings against Buffalo, and used infielder Andy LaRoche on the mound in the final inning. He gave up one hit and became the winning pitcher after Nate Spears hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning.

Daniel Bard pitched one inning of relief, allowing one walk for Pawtucket … Scott Podsednik went 4-for-6.

Tonight at Fenway, Boston’s Aaron Cook (2-2, 4.37) goes against Dylan Axelrod (1-2, 6.16) of the White Sox.

In Portland, left-handed prospect Drake Britton goes for the Sea Dogs, against Reading.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

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