BOSTON -- It might all be academic. When third baseman Will Middlebrooks is eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, he will do so, which clearly was his expectation this past weekend.
But manager John Farrell suggested otherwise Wednesday, when he said the Sox would like to see Middlebrooks have “some momentum” going before he’s activated.
“We sat down and talked with Will before the rehab started, and said this is not just a chance to make sure the health issues are behind him, which everything points to is the case, and two, get his timing back. But also let’s use this as an opportunity to get a little momentum going before he comes back.
“We’re hopeful that is sooner rather than later. Saturday is still the day he’s first eligible to be activated. It could very well be Saturday; it could be shortly thereafter. The most important thing is our need for right-handed bats in our lineup to balance out the left side. He’s a vital part of that. We want to be sure he’s got some momentum coming back to us."
“Momentum” would suggest that Middlebrooks, who went 1 for 3 with a walk Tuesday night in his first rehab game with Pawtucket, will need to show that he has regained a consistent stroke at the plate, which could easily take more than three additional games between now and Saturday. Farrell did not specify a timetable.
Then again, it might not. Wednesday, Middlebrooks hit a three-run home run, singled and walked, driving in five runs. Maybe a single swing of the bat in the seventh inning Wednesday against Charlotte reliever Jhan Marinez is all the "momentum" the Sox need to see.
“This isn’t going to be based on batting average," Farrell said. “I think it’s more important, as he was showing more consistently before the [back] injury, the ability to drive the ball to right center field, as we’ve talked many times over, that’s when he’s at his best. Take his normal, natural approach and repeat it."
Farrell tried to quash the suggestion that Middlebrooks may spend more time in Pawtucket because of how well Jose Iglesias has been playing third base in his absence. But his choice of words indicated that Iglesias’ play is a factor.
“I wouldn’t say it’s predicated just on what Jose is doing,’’ Farrell
“The bottom line is what’s best for Will is best for us. Swinging the bat good, feeling confident in himself. He’s our third baseman."
Iglesias is batting .431 in 17 games with the Red Sox this season, .421 (16 for 38) in 11 games since his recall on May 24, with a home run, 4 doubles and 6 RBIs.
Middlebrooks, meanwhile, has a slash line of .201/.234/.408/.632 this season with 12 doubles and 8 home runs. Since reaching his high-water mark of .212 in May on the 12th, Middlebrooks was batting .167 (7 for 42) in his last 11 games, a stretch in which he tried to play through bruised ribs.
“If Will goes down and is just being Will Middlebrooks, he’ll get his way back here, because that’s the kind of player he is," Farrell said. “We just want to make sure he’s got some momentum coming to us."