"The last thing you want to do is get him out of the lineup when he's hitting home runs," manager Bobby Valentine said of Middlebrooks after the Red Sox's 8-4 win over the Braves on Saturday night, Middlebrooks' third straight start.
Middlebrooks went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and two RBIs on Saturday against Atlanta, which saw a three-game win streak end.
Trade rumors involving Youkilis came all day Saturday and will likely continue into Sunday's game if a deal isn't struck before the two teams take the field.
Clay Buchholz was the Red Sox's scheduled starter, but his turn through the rotation is being skipped because of illness. Aaron Cook, who's been rehabbing with Triple-A Pawtucket, did not make a scheduled start for the PawSox on Saturday and instead gets the ball on Sunday in what is set to be his second career start for the Sox.
Cook is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee laceration and made one rehab start with Pawtucket, on Monday. He went four innings in that game against Syracuse and gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out three in an 11-7 loss for Pawtucket.
"We're playing that game of no expectation, let's see what he has when he gets here," Valentine said.
In Cook's first big league start this year, he was spiked in the left leg by the Orioles' Chris Davis while trying to cover home plate on a passed ball in the second inning on May 5. After getting the injury bandaged up, Cook went on to allow seven runs over 2 2/3 frames.
The Braves will start left-hander Mike Minor, who's battled inconsistency this season. Minor (3-5, 6.04 ERA) gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last start, a 6-2 loss to the Yankees on Monday, after allowing just one run in both of his previous starts.
"He's plenty good enough to get through these lineups," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We've seen it in spurts. Now we just need to get him to rattle off four or five good starts in a row."
Said Minor: "I feel like every game there is something you can learn from."
Braves: Braves outfielders carrying hot streaks
Jason Heyward went 1-for-4 on Saturday and has a nine-game hitting streak. He's also hit in 17 of his last 21, at a .342 clip (26-for-76) with four home runs, eight doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.
Michael Bourn has a hit in 19 of his last 21 games, with a .344 average (31-for-90) in that span with five doubles, two home runs, a triple and nine RBIs.
Red Sox: Crawford makes first game appearance of year
In five plate appearances as the designated hitter, outfielder Carl Crawford went 0-for-3 with two walks and a run scored with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Saturday. It was his first organized game action of 2012 as he comes back from left elbow and wrist injuries. He grounded out to second twice and flied out to center.
Would-be closer Andrew Bailey felt discomfort in his arm throwing off a mound in a bullpen session Friday. Bailey was progressing ahead of schedule but the Sox are going to scale him back to flat-ground work. He said it was ordinary tightness like he would feel in Spring Training.
"It didn't go perfectly," said manager Bobby Valentine. "We're going to let him rest a little before he gets back on the mound."
The Braves need a win Sunday to avoid a losing Interleague Play record for 2012. They're 8-9.
The Red Sox are 10-7 against the National League this season. Saturday's victory ensured they'd have a winning Interleague record for an eighth straight year.