A first: Middlebrooks playing second
SAN FRANCISCO — Prior to the bottom of the seventh inning in Wednesday’s game against the Giants, Red Sox manager John Farrell raised two fingers to Will Middlebrooks. Poor Middlebrooks. He had no idea what his manager meant by the signal.
How could he? Middlebrooks had never played second base in his life. Not in LIttle League, not in high school, not in the Minors and certainly not n the Majors.
But with the latest roster shuffle leaving the Red Sox without a backup second baseman, Middlebrooks has now inherited that role. Farrell decided to give him a trial by fire in Wednesday’s game with the Red Sox holding a double-digit lead.
Middlebrooks did not disappoint, turning the middle of a 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the seventh.
On the same day Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer earlier in the game, he had no problem identifying his highlight of the game.
“Probably turning the DP,: Middlebrooks said. “That was a lot of fun. That was out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it, that was a lot of fun.”
Farrell took a leap of faith thinking Middlebrooks could be comfortable at second just by judging how he looked when the Red Sox overshift on left-handed batters. That doesn’t mean Middlebrooks has had much time to work on second base since his return to Boston a couple of weeks ago.
“Not much. I haven’t worked on it. I haven’t turned a play up the middle since I was 18 in Texarkana, Texas, so it’s been awhile.’’
It was a funny moment when Farrell told Middlebrooks he was switching from third to second late in the game.
“I thought I misunderstood him,” Middlebrooks said. “He looked at me and [held up two fingers]. I had just grounded out. He gave me ‘this’ and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I had to run up and get a different glove. I have a smaller one.”
Middlerooks agrees with Farrell’s reasoning that the shift coverage helped him prepare a little for the unfamiliar responsibility.
“Yeah, absolutely, that way I can at least see the angle of the balls and how the ball comes off the bat. It really wasn’t that big of a difference, it wasn’t a big deal,” said Middlebrooks.
So Middlebrooks really never played second before Wednesday?
“No, never, never, never. Shortstop my whole life then I played third my first year in pro ball.,” Middlebrooks said.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia doesn’t require much time off. Middlebrooks will be the insurance option at second until Sept. 1, when rosters are expanded. With the Red Sox having multiple off-days before then, Pedroia probably won’t need to come out of the starting lineup, barring an injury.
And the way Middlebrooks has been swinging the bat, the Red Sox want to keep him right where he is — at the hot corner.