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A look at what the Red Sox will do without Will Middlebrooks

08.11.12 at 9:40 am ET
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According to a team source, Will Middlebrooks suffered a fractured right wrist after being hit by a 96 mph fastball from Esmil Rogers in the ninth inning of the Red Sox‘€™ 3-2 win over the Indians Friday night.

So, where do the Red Sox go from here?

The team hasn’€™t ruled out Middlebrooks returning this season, but it would probably behoove the Red Sox to proceed as if living life without the rookie for the remainder of ‘€™12 is the likely scenario.

Here are the team’€™s third base options:

Pedro Ciriaco: The latest ‘€œmost popular athlete in Boston’€ hasn’€™t played any third base for the Red Sox since joining the team this season, although he does have experience at the position.

Ciriaco played two major league games at third with the Pirates in ‘€™11, albeit for just six innings, after playing one game there for Triple-A Indianapolis. He also manned third base for three games this season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has clearly prioritized finding ways to get Ciriaco into the lineup, as has been evidenced by the 26-year-old manning four different positions (including designated hitter).

Ciriaco hasn’€™t hit a wall as of yet, still maintaining a .341 batting average, and .831 OPS, while going 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts. In his 28 appearances, only one time has he has only gone two straight starts in which he has failed to manage at least one hit.

Nick Punto: The veteran infielder has played more games at third base (22) than any other position this season. He also manned third 48 times in ‘€™10.

The 34-year-old has struggled offensively this season ‘€“ hitting .200 with a .302 on-base percentage ‘€“ and the average goes down to .159 when looking at games solely played at third.

But Punto  may represent the team’€™s best defensive option at third base, and he has hit better when getting consistent playing time, as was exemplified during a six-game stretch filling in for Dustin Pedroia from May 29-June 3.

Danny Valencia: The newly-acquired third baseman ‘€“ who is being added to the 25-man roster — has never played any other position but the hot corner and was the Twins’€™ everyday player at the position through the ‘€™11 season.

During that run as Minnesota’€™s regular third baseman, Valencia hit .246 with an OPS of .677 and 15 homers in 154 games. He got off to a bad start, hitting .219 in the season’€™s first three months, but rebounded to show some promise via a .294 average and .783 OPS in July and August.

Valencia wasn’€™t able to carry over the momentum this season, hitting just .198 with an OPS of .522 before being dealt to the Red Sox.

Valencia had played in just two games with the Pawtucket Red Sox, coming away with two hits and a pair of walks in nine plate appearances.

Mike Aviles: The Red Sox could choose to move Aviles over to third base and play Ciriaco consistently at shortstop, although there has been some hesitation to move the infielder out of short at any time this season. Aviles has 60 games of major league experience at third, including 22 appearances with the Red Sox in ’11.

And, in case you were wondering about the value of Middlebrooks, understand that the Red Sox are 43-32 in games he has played in. He is third on the team in OPS (.835), while managing a .333 average with runners on base, and .332 clip with runners in scoring position.

Middlebrooks is also hitting .306 with a .923 OPS from after the sixth inning.

And no Middlebrooks’€™ post would be complete this season without the inevitable Kevin Youkilis update ‘€¦

Since the trade with the White Sox, Youkilis is hitting .244 with an .846 OPS and nine home runs, with Chicago totaling a 23-14 record in games he has played. During that span, Middlebrooks  — who had been sidelined with hamstring issues even before this trip to the disabled list ‘€“ has hit .244 with a .700 OPS and six homers during the span.

It should be noted, however, that since July 23 Middlebrooks has out-performed Youkilis, hitting .300 with an .887 OPS. Over that span, the Chicago third baseman is hitting just .184 with an OPS of .814.

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