He had just grounded out in the seventh inning of the Boston Red Sox’s 12-1 win against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, when he looked toward the dugout to see manager John Farrell holding up two fingers. Turns out the skipper was telling Middlebrooks he would be moving from third base to second base for the first time in his big league career.
In 11 games since he was recalled, Will Middlebrooks is batting .441 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
“I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Middlebrooks told reporters after the game. “I had to run up and get a different glove.”
So he bolted for the locker room and got out his smaller glove before heading out to second base. With a 10-run lead and a big series against the Los Angeles Dodgers coming up, Farrell used the opportunity to rest his regulars and try some new things.
Top prospect Xander Bogaerts (who reached on an error in his only at-bat) entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh and went to third base, sending Middlebrooks to second while Dustin Pedroia took the rest of the day off.
Though Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer in the second inning to begin the afternoon’s scoring, it wasn’t his favorite play of the day. Said distinction belonged to the 6-4-3 double play he helped turn just two batters into his stay at second base.
“I haven’t turned a double play up the middle since I was 18 in Texarkana, Texas,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s been a while.”
Farrell admitted that he didn’t know “a whole lot” about Middlebrooks’ abilities at second base but said he was happy with the results. Middlebrooks also made a nice, ranging backhanded play to nab Marco Scutaro in the ninth inning.
Both manager and player alike said Middlebrooks’ experience on the right side of the infield during shift situations, although limited, helped ease the transition.
“Absolutely,” Middlebrooks said. “That way, I’ve at least seen the angles of the ball and how the ball comes off the bat. It really wasn’t that big of a difference, wasn’t a big deal.”
With Bogaerts’ promotion, the Red Sox are thin behind Pedroia at second base. While Farrell told reporters he’d be looking at Middlebrooks to back up Pedroia in certain situations, the infielder laughed and said, “We haven’t talked about it.”
As for the bat, Farrell said Middlebrooks is “back to where he was last year,” which is encouraging for the Sox. Middlebrooks burst on the scene in 2012, when he hit .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 75 games.
But after struggling to start the year, the Red Sox sent him down to Triple-A Pawtucket for a six-week stint. In 11 games since he was recalled on Aug. 10, Middlebrooks is batting .441 (15-of-34) with two home runs, seven RBIs and six runs.
Farrell said Middlebrooks is more “squared up” in the box and that it has allowed him to have better plate coverage on the outside and use the entire field. But Middlebrooks insists he hasn’t altered much.
“Just more comfortable,” he said. “Everyone wants to say I changed my approach but I haven’t really changed my approach. Just more consistent with it. You get confidence when you get results.”