PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Relentless.
Will Middlebrooks wore that word across his chest when he met with the media pregame Friday at sodden McCoy Stadium, where he’s due to start a rehab stint with the PawSox. It’s also a fitting description of the Red Sox third baseman’s past two seasons.
As in, the injury woes have been relentless.
Middlebrooks has missed more than two dozen Red Sox games since fracturing his right index finger in a game against the Tigers last month -- his second DL stint of 2014. The 25-year-old has missed more than twice as many games (44 and counting) as he’s played (21) this season.
“It’s been a long two years,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with great teammates, and I’ve had a lot of help to get through it all. I know I’ve said it before, but hopefully this is it [and] I can move forward from here and string together some consistent days on the field.”
The finger is still clearly swollen and he hasn’t regained full range of motion, but Middlebrooks says he can see it healing.
“It’s about half the size it was,” he said. “We’re just working on flexibility and getting it straightened out. Luckily it’s my top hand, so I can just leave it off the bat if I need to. Throwing is gonna be my biggest test.”
He’s thrown the past couple of days, and said that while there’s still discomfort he hopes to play third for Pawtucket on Saturday.
“It’s pretty sore,” he said. “But what can you expect? It’s only been three weeks.”
As for a timetable on a return to Boston, Middlebrooks said he hadn’t discussed that with the powers that be yet. For now, he’s got more immediate goals.
“Well, I haven’t seen a whole lot of pitching this year,” he said. “I’ve played like 20 games. So I need to get timing, I need to just get comfortable and get in a rhythm here. Defensively, offensively, just baseball in general. That’s my goal right now.
“There’s no timetable set on, you know, six games, 15 games. I gotta get healthy, I need to get in a rhythm.”
He was hitting .197/.305/.324 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs when he landed on the DL last month.
With the Sox offense scuffling, ranking 13th in the American League in runs only a season after running away with the scoring lead, Middlebrooks said there’s added frustration being sidelined.
“Well, I don’t like to sit on the side and not be able to help out, but they’ll be fine,” he said. “They’re a good group of guys, they work hard and there’s a lot of talent there. So there’s a lot of baseball left.”
Middlebrooks just hopes he can finally get healthy enough to prove that word -- relentless -- applies to his approach in the batter’s box and not his battle with the injury bug.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.