Thursday, July 4, 2013
Middlebrooks making a case to return
By Dan Peterson
On a day when Jose Iglesias was named AL Rookie of the Month for June, Will Middlebrooks served notice that he's still a pretty hot prospect himself.
Batting fourth as the DH for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday night, Middlebrooks feasted on Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders pitching, going 4-for-5 with two home runs and a PawSox record-tying eight RBIs in an 11-5 win in Pawtucket, R.I.
Middlebrooks lined out to third in the bottom of the first, but was a perfect 4-for-4 the rest of the night. He hit an RBI double in the third, a three-run homer in the fourth, a grand slam in the sixth and a single in the eighth.
"The past couple of games, I've been trying to be patient and -- what's the word? -- selectively aggressive," Middlebrooks said afterward, according to the Pawtucket Times. "Just seeing and hitting it no matter what the count is. If they're going to give me a good pitch, it doesn't matter what the count is."
Middlebrooks was the Opening Day starter at third base for Boston, but he struggled at the plate in the big leagues in 2013, with a .192/.228/.389 slash line and .617 OPS in 203 at-bats over 53 games. He was optioned to Pawtucket on June 25, both to work on getting back on track at the plate and to make room in the every-day lineup for Iglesias, who is batting .409 for Boston after going 0-for-2 in Wednesday's 2-1, walk-off win over the Padres.
But with Iglesias playing shortstop with Stephen Drew sidelined with a hamstring issue, could Middlebrooks be back in Boston sooner than later?
"He's too good a player to continue with the struggles that he's had so far this year," Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway told ESPNBoston.com on Wednesday night. "So I expect that he'll get right back on track and we'll see him again."
Middlebrooks is eligible to be recalled Friday, as Major Lague Baseball rules stipulate that a player must stay in the minor leagues for 10 days after being sent down (unless he's recalled to replace another player who goes on the disabled list, bereavement list, paternity list, etc.). Meanwhile, the Red Sox have not indicated any specific timeline for a potential return for Middlebrooks.
Brandon Snyder, who has started at third base in four of Boston's past five games, was 0-for-3 Wednesday night before being lifted in the bottom of the ninth for pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes, who proceeded to line a home run over the Green Monster in left to give the Red Sox the walk-off win, their AL-best eighth of the season.
Snyder is batting .250 (3-for-12) in his stint with Boston. With Middlebrooks hitting .319 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 13 Triple-A games, could another change be coming at Boston's hot corner in the near future?