Middlebrooks plunking helps incite skirmish

BOSTON -- In the midst of a lengthy minor league rehab assignment, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks might have taken fighting his way back to the majors a bit too literally Friday night.

Playing with Triple-A Pawtucket, Middlebrooks found himself involved in a benches-clearing skirmish between the PawSox and the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate Buffalo Bisons. Although no punches were thrown, both teams’ bullpens and benches emptied onto the field.

Stepping in with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Middlebrooks was hit in the shoulder by a pitch from Esmil Rogers -- the same pitcher who broke his wrist with a pitch in August 2012, prematurely ending his rookie season. According to reports, Middlebrooks seemed to take exception to the plunking but made his way to first base.

“[Rogers] didn’t mean to hit me [in 2012],” Middlebrooks told The Providence Journal. “I didn’t agree with tonight just because there was a base open, he missed me and then he hit me. I didn’t agree with that. I thought that was bad baseball. I’m not a guy to charge the mound, especially here. I’m here trying to get my innings up, not trying to fight people. It [ticked] me off, yeah. ... He should carry himself better than that. Think his emotions just got the better of him.”

In the next inning, however, tensions once again escalated. Working against PawSox designated hitter Corey Brown, Rogers was once again locating uncomfortably close to the plate. After eventually striking out to end the inning, Brown voiced his frustration while walking toward Rogers as he walked off the mound, prompting Rogers to respond and thus leading to the incident.

Middlebrooks and fellow rehabbing Red Sox Shane Victorino were both on the field during the verbal argument.

Middlebrooks played all nine innings at third in the eventual 4-3 PawSox win, going 0-for-2 with a walk. Meanwhile, Victorino played seven innings in right field, going 1-for-4 with a double at the plate.

After the Red Sox 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals, manager John Farrell said the team will evaluate Victorino in Boston on Saturday before determining whether he is ready to return to the team.