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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Farrell sets no time frame for Middlebrooks

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- There is no longer a job-share arrangement at third base, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday. Jose Iglesias, the once and perhaps future shortstop, will be playing third on an everyday basis, the Sox having decided to option last year’s rookie sensation, Will Middlebrooks, to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“For the short run," Farrell said of Iglesias, “he’s our third baseman."

Farrell said no time parameters have been set for Middlebrooks.

“Will will be getting regular at-bats," he said. “For him to get back on track, he needs everyday at-bats.

“His skills haven’t gone backward. He’s still a very talented player. He needs consistent work that will allow him to replicate his swing. This isn’t uncommon for a young player, to take a step back now for the bigger picture.

“He will be our everyday third baseman... (but) this isn’t going to be a numbers deal. It’s not a matter of hitting .310 and coming back here."

The demotion of Middlebrooks was one of several roster moves that the Sox made Tuesday. The Sox purchased the contract of infielder Brandon Snyder from Pawtucket; to make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Sox placed catcher David Ross on the 60-day disabled list.

Also, in a move expected to be made official before the start of Tuesday night’s game, the Sox are expected to place pitcher Franklin Morales on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left pectoral muscle and recall reliever Pedro Beato from Pawtucket. Beato’s stay may be a short one, Farrell said, acknowledging that reliever Clayton Mortensen, who is on rehab assignment with Pawtucket and pitched Monday night, could be back for Wednesday night’s game.

Farrell said he informed Middlebrooks of his demotion in a meeting with the 24-year-old third baseman at the ballpark early Tuesday afternoon.

“I know he’s disappointed," Farrell said. “No player likes to be sent out, but he understood it."

A year ago almost to the day -- last June 24 -- the Red Sox traded veteran Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, cementing a transition to Middlebrooks as the team’s everyday third baseman. Middlebrooks was enjoying a dazzling big-league debut, posting a slash line of .326/.365/.583/.949 at the time of the trade, along with 9 home runs and 34 RBIs in his first 41 games.

But on Aug. 10 in Cleveland, Middlebrooks was struck in the right wrist by a pitch by Esmil Rogers that fractured two bones, ending his season after just 75 games. The wrist gave Middlebrooks a scare in spring training, when he came out of a game in Sarasota after experiencing what he called a “zinging sensation," but he was cleared medically and enjoyed a fine spring, batting .321 and slugging .536 with 9 extra-base hits.

He gave every indication of picking up where he left off in the season’s sixth game, when he hit three home runs on April 7 against the Blue Jays in Toronto, but then sank into an extended slump in which he had just 5 hits in 54 at-bats (.093). He also injured ribs in a collision with catcher Ross on May 7, and on May 24 went on the disabled list with a lower-back strain, missing 16 games.

During his absence, Iglesias was promoted, and in all 26 games in which he has had a plate appearance, he has reached base, batting .420 (37 for 88) with 9 extra-base hits and 9 walks. He also has excelled at third base, a position he had never played before getting a couple of games there for Pawtucket just before his call-up.

When Middlebrooks came off the DL on June 10, Farrell announced that Iglesias would play at least three times a week, rotating between short and third. But with Middlebrooks batting just .138 (4 for 29) in the seven games since his return, dropping his overall slash line to .192/.228/.389/.617, the decision was made to demote him.

The 26-year-old Snyder, who played 40 games for Texas last season before signing as a minor-league free agent with the Red Sox, will be used strictly as a backup, Farrell said. Snyder, who can play both corner infield positions, said his promotion came as a bit of a surprise, since he was coming off a seven-game road trip in which he’d batted just .125 (4 for 32).