Middlebrooks scare a chilling reminder

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
11:13
AM ET
BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the Red Sox, Wednesday night’s scare with Will Middlebrooks' wrist was a disturbing reminder of the wave of injuries that crippled the team last year, when 27 players served 34 stints on the disabled list, resulting in a total of 1,495 games missed.

The Sox already are monitoring three significant health issues: Designated hitter David Ortiz has yet to run the bases or play in a game because of continuing soreness in his strained right Achilles tendon, an injury he sustained last July, causing him to miss 71 games. Free agent acquisition Mike Napoli, signed to be the team’s first baseman, has been diagnosed with a serious condition in both hips, avascular necrosis, though he says he is asymptomatic and has been cleared to play in his first game Friday night.

And John Lackey is being counted upon to take a regular turn in the starting rotation 16 months after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

A significant injury to Middlebrooks would leave the Red Sox vulnerable at a position where they already are thin. Of the players in camp, Pedro Ciriaco has made 35 starts at third, non-roster invitee Drew Sutton 14 and Mauro Gomez 6. Manager John Farrell has said Brock Holt, who played a handful of games at second base for the Pirates last season, probably would see some action at third.

Top prospect Xander Bogaerts played two exhibition games at third, but that was only so he could be exposed to the position before he joined Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Bogaerts is expected to play third and DH for the Netherlands in the WBC, but he’s not an option for the Sox at this stage of his development, having played just 23 games at Double-A.

If Middlebrooks were to go down for an extended period of time, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington likely would have to explore outside options. One possibility: Unsigned free agent Scott Rolen, the 38-year-old eight-time Gold Glover who has missed 118 games in the last two seasons because of problems with both shoulders that have persisted for years. Rolen also has dealt with back issues, and his production dropped off significantly in his last two seasons with Cincinnati.

Publicly, this is what Rolen said about his future, in a statement released by the Reds after last season: "Right now, I'm simply not ready to make a commitment. I would like to leave my options open, without closing any doors. I am looking forward to all of the challenges, both personally and professionally, I will face in the future."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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