Middlebrooks works out at shortstop

BOSTON -- A few weeks ago, Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine inquired with upper management whether or not rookie Will Middlebrooks could play another position other than third base.

The manager was told the prospect was strictly a third baseman.

That could change, however, now that Dustin Pedroia remains sidelined with a thumb injury. Middlebrooks was taking ground balls at shortstop Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park. He was also working out double-play feeds with regular shortstop Mike Aviles at second.

"(Middlebrooks) was also a good high school shortstop," Valentine said with a smile. "He can play another position and if something happens he's going to take a grounder at shortstop because Mike has played second."

When Red Sox veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis went on the disabled list with a lower-back strain on May 2, the club promoted Middlebrooks from Triple-A Pawtucket.

The 23-year-old infielder has been solid both offensively and defensively during his time in the big leagues, posting a .316 average with six homers and 21 RBIs in 24 games with the Red Sox. Because of his success, it's been an extremely difficult decision for Valentine to remove the youthful spark from the lineup.

Since Youkilis was activated on May 22, he's played both third and first, while Adrian Gonzalez has played right field, too, all to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup. He's not playing in the series finale against the Detroit Tigers Thursday night at Fenway Park, and Valentine said it was a difficult decision, especially since Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs on Wednesday.

"It's all kind of tomfoolery," Valentine said.

Then the manager explained that, since the Red Sox will play a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays on artificial turf this weekend at Rogers Centre, Gonzalez won't play all three games in the outfield and he will need to play first at some point during the upcoming series. Also, Youkilis won't play all three games because of the surface, too.

Plus, Valentine credited outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Scott Podsednik for playing well of late.

"We're trying to keep everyone fresh, and mix and match the best we can," Valentine said.