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Will Middlebrooks on Bobby Valentine: ‘He’s trying to get me better’

08.02.12 at 1:48 pm ET
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Rookie Will Middlebrooks has nine errors in 66 games this year. (AP)

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, in his appearance on The Big Show on Wednesday, said that the only time that team owners have talked to him about his communication with players was when, at the conclusion of a rough defensive inning in which Will Middlebrooks made a couple of defensive miscues, the manager offered a sarcastic remark to the rookie.

“Ownership did come and say that they heard that a game when — or someone, actually ownership — that they heard when Will Middlebrooks made two errors in a game and he came off of the field and got into the dugout, I said, ‘Nice inning, Will,’ and that maybe that upset him,” said Valentine. “Now, they didn’t take it further and find out after the game that I went over to Will’s locker, I was trying to be light at the time with the ‘Nice inning,’ then I went over to his locker and told him about my experience of making three errors, being booed off the field and cushions being thrown from the Dodger Stadium fandom and me dodging them as I got into the dugout. If you’re going to deal with part of the story, then believe me, it’s not the story.”

(NB: Middlebrooks has not had any games this year in which he’s made multiple errors, though there have been instances when he’s had multiple defensive misplays in the same inning.)

When asked about the incident, Middlebrooks said that he had no recollection of such an exchange, but that he was appreciative of the approach that Valentine has taken to his player development in his rookie season.

“I don’t even remember that [incident]. I’m sure it happened, but if I made a couple errors, I was probably pretty hot,” said Middlebrooks. “He’s good about that. He keeps things pretty light. He’s never angry or mad at you. He knows you’re playing hard and doing the things that matter.”

Middlebrooks acknowledged that there is a clear distinction between the jobs of a major league and minor league manager, with minor league managers necessarily focused solely on player development, while the job of big league managers is driven by the need to win. That said, the 23-year-old said that Valentine has remained mindful of the realities of Middlebrooks’ development, and that he’s been supportive of him through his rookie experience.

“Maybe [the job of a big league manager is to win], but at the same time, he’s trying to get me better also,” said Middlebrooks, who is hitting .300/.329/.521/.890 with 13 homers and nine errors. “I’m still new to this level. He’s teaching me a lot.”

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