Results tagged ‘ Will Middlebrooks ’
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.
When Will Middlebrooks returns to the active roster in one week against the Angels, don’t be so sure Jose Iglesias will be heading back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Don’t forget, Iglesias had been getting some work at third and second base for Pawtucket even before the back injury to Middlebrooks.
Pedro Ciriaco hasn’t performed well in a utility role on offense or defense, and Iglesias is at the point in his development where he might benefit more from staying in the Majors — even in a bench role — than playing every day at Pawtucket.
“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “So, he’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously, we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop. At some point, if we’re to strongly and surely consider him for a utility role, then he’s got to get some exposure to second base. The one thing we’re cautious of is just the pivot on the double play. I don’t know how you can emulate that in early work or in simulated-type situations, but I think most importantly, we haven’t ruled out him being in a utility role.”
The Red Sox got the best news possible on Thursday morning. Will Middlebrooks was absolutely fine, a day after exiting the game with discomfort in his surgically repaired right wrist. In fact, Middlebooks could well be in the starting lineup for Friday night’s home game against the Cardinals.
“His exam this morning was benign,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He didn’t feel any discomfort when he was put through a battery of tests and he’s actually been cleared for all baseball activities, but I’m sure he’s going to take the day to just let it rest. But given the way he came out after the swing, it was obviously very good news this morning.”
When will he play? “He’ll be day to day, until he takes BP, which should be tomorrow,” Farrell said. “Our plan right now is that he would be able to go tomorrow, but we’ll just be sure he comes through BP without any issue.”
Third base is one position the Red Sox don’t have much depth at. “Well at the time of the swing, it wasn’t real encouraging. Given what he came through with the fracture a year ago, I can understand that he was a little tentative and probably a little scared,” Farrell said. “Fortunately this morning things checked out OK.”
One day, Pedro Martinez is working with the pitchers. The next day, Jason Varitek is instructing catchers. Then Tim Wakefield is mentoring Steven Wright on the finer points of the knuckleball. And then there was Tuesday, and a surprise appearance by Mike Lowell in a Red Sox uniform.
Lowell was in camp as a guest instructor with the purpose of mentoring Will Middlebrooks at third base. The idea was Dustin Pedroia’s.
Life has come full circle for Lowell, who remembers being a prospect at Yankees camp and working with, among others, World Series hero Graig Nettles.
Now Lowell is the World Series hero working with the highly-touted young player.
“Pedroia wanted me to visit him,” said Lowell. “That was Part One. I think Pedey talked to Will and said we communicated and worked well together turning double plays and said he wouldn’t mind doing some stuff. I don’t think it’s anything he does wrong. I love guys who might want to hear something else because you never know what can trigger something good.
“I remember Scott Brosius and Luis Sojo and Graig Nettles, they told me things they probably meant in passing but it sticks with you when you’re young. I don’t know. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’re just going to talk about stuff and hopefully it helps.”
Lowell was always considered a thinking man’s player. “I felt like my physical talent wasn’t top of the line so I had to have an edge any way I could.”
Lowell is expected to be in camp for a couple of days. He will soon be at Marlins camp serving in a similar capacity for his close friend Mike Redmond — the new Miami manager.
Once Boston’s formal workout was complete, Lowell went for a lengthy tutorial on the backfield with Middlebrooks. Pedroia was also there, taking throws.
If the Red Sox seem a little more comfortable in Texas than other road spots, there’s good reason. Their team is surrounded by players who have Texas roots.
Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all hail from the Lone Star State, as do Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Kelly Shoppach, Carl Crawford and Will Middlebrooks.
Monday was particularly special for Middlebrooks, who grew up a Rangers fan, living about two and a half hours from Arlington. This was his first Major League game in Arlington, though he played here in high school All-Star Games.
“I remember how hot it was. It was in July before my senior year of high school. I don’t remember much. It was an All-Star game or something,” said Middlebrooks. “I grew up in Texarcarna which is like two hours from here. But I live here in the offseason now. I have a lot of friends here. I came to a lot of games out here. I’m excited to play here. It’s a fun place. When I was a kid, i remember watching Juan Gonzalez, Pudge. Who else was here? Rusty Greer. A-Rod for a little bit.”
Manager Bobby Valentine also has deep roots in Texas, as the Rangers gave him his start in Major League managing from 1985-92. His son still lives here, and Valentine said he has several friends in the Arlington area.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a mammoth home run tonight, played for the Rangers for parts of four seasons before coming to Boston. Adrian Gonzalez played 59 games for the Rangers over two seasons.
The Red Sox have an old-fashioned quarterback controversy developing here. Well, make that a third base controversy.
Will Middlebrooks, the prized prospect, is hitting the cover off the ball. Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list, resting his ailing back.
So what happens when Youkilis comes back? The earliest Youk can play is next Monday at home against the Indians. Given that he had just started a walking program the other day, it sounds ambitious that he would return that soon.
In other words, Middlebrooks will get a chance to keep proving himself, like he did Monday night, when he put on a Tour De Force of power at Kauffman Stadium. He curled one around the RF foul pole. He smashed one off the wall in center. He clanged one off the LF foul pole. For those keeping score at home, Middlebrooks has nine RBIs in the last two games.
To take it a step further, Youkilis has nine RBIs in 64 at-bats. Middlebrooks has had 21 at-bats.
Can Youkilis revert back to the star he was before injuries started taking a toll on him in August of 2010? In his last 143 at-bats dating back to Aug. 1 of last season, Youkilis is hitting .203 with four homers and 15 RBIs.
But what happens when scouting reports start to develop on Middlebrooks? Does he then tail off or does he adjust quickly?
There is a lot to think about for the Red Sox. Youkilis obviously doesn’t have a lot of trade value at the moment, given his $12 million salary for this season. He is a free agent following the year, and the Red Sox hold a $13 million option on him with a $1 million buyout.
Could a situation develop where Youkilis is the veteran stuck on the bench, like Mike Lowell in 2010?
Or do the Red Sox deal Youkilis, in which case they will likely have to eat a lot of the salary.
This is yet another tough decision for Ben Cherington to be faced with in his first season as general manager.
Middlebrooks and the Red Sox are back out there tonight in an 8:05 p.m. ET contest at Kauffman Stadium.