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It would appear that questions surrounding the left side of the Red Sox infield have been temporarily answered. Will Middlebrooks was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket Tuesday in a move that will hopefully help the slumping third baseman return to form and solidify for the time being Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew as everyday starters.
Severe inconsistencies at the plate have landed Middlebrooks on the bench five of the last six games in a season that has been forgettable for the young slugger. A year ago, the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis and ushered in what appeared to be the Will Middlebrooks era at the hot corner. At the time Middlebrooks was enjoying a fantastic debut, hitting .326 with 9 homers and 34 RBI in 41 games. Unfortunately a broken wrist stalled the success and ended his season.
A hot start to this season had fans thinking Middlebrooks was back, but a 5 for 54 stretch and a 16-game stint on the DL has raised legitimate concerns. At the time of Tuesday’s assigning to the minors, Middlebrooks was hitting .192 with 9 home runs, 25 RBI and .228 OBP.
Even more problematic for Middlebrooks has been the sensational performance of Jose Iglesias this season. Known for his defensive ability at shortstop, Iglesias filled in for Middlebrooks at third, a position he had never played professionally, and flourished, especially at the plate. Somewhat surprisingly, Iglesias hit .420 and reached base in every game with a plate appearance in Middlebrooks’s absence.
Middlebrooks coming off the DL on June 10th created questions of who would be the everyday third baseman in Boston. Manager John Farrell stated that Iglesias would play three times per week, rotating between third and short.
But since his return, Middlebrooks has managed just a .138 average. Farrell cites the need for Middlebrooks to get regular at-bats as a reason for sending him down. He has not benefited from the irregularity of playing time.
No timetable exists for Middlebrooks. The important thing right now is that he gets repetitions at the plate to replicate his swing. The demotion to the minors is disappointing but he understands the reasoning behind it. Farrell has expressed confidence in the young infielder, stating that the talent is there as is a future as an everyday third baseman.
An alarming statistic is that Middlebrooks has struck-out 60 times this season while walking only 9. The areas for improvement are apparent but so is the potential. Middlebrooks can be a valuable asset for the Sox assuming the work is put in to create the total package. However, there has been talk of Middlebrooks being dealt, possibly for relief pitching. Only time will tell where he fits in in the future.