FORT MYERS, Fla. — How long will Will Middlebrooks be out due to the right wrist injury he suffered on Wednesday night when checking his swing awkwardly against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman ?
“A year or two?” he mused on Thursday morning, before cracking a grin.
He could afford to joke. After an examination by both Red Sox  team trainers and a hand specialist, the third baseman was cleared to resume full baseball activity. Indeed, the key indicators of his health were so positive — Middlebrooks reported that he felt no pain, all strength tests indicated that there was no evidence of weakness and he showed no discomfort when the training staff manipulated his wrist — that the team did not feel it was necessary for him to be sent for either an X-ray or an MRI. Middlebrooks was even able to take batting practice on Thursday, less than 24 hours after being removed from Wednesday night’s game against the Orioles due to pain created by an awkward check swing against on an up-and-in fastball from right-hander Chris Tillman.
“His exam this morning was benign. 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,” said Sox manager John Farrell . “But given the way he came out after the swing, it was obviously very good news this morning.’
The Sox expect that Middlebrooks will be able to play in Friday night’s game, so long as there are no issues that emerge in batting practice. For his part, the third baseman exuded confidence when he arrived at JetBlue Park for an exam on Thursday morning.
“I’m fine, man. Same as last night. Just scared. It scared me. I felt just an awkward feeling, awkward movement of the wrist. It was the initial zing of pain and that was it. I expect to be fine. I’m fine right now. I could have swung a bat last night,” said Middlebrooks.
Asked if there was concern about the possibility of recurrence of injury in the region, Middlebrooks said, “We hope [there] isn’t. It’s hard to tell right now. There’s no pain. There’s no structural damage. So initially, you’d say no. Hopefully it’s just scar tissue moving around and just broke it up a bit and that’s what I felt.”
Indeed, given that Wednesday represented Middlebrooks’ first hard (and, for that matter, awkward) check swing since a broken wrist wiped out the final two months of his 2012 season, that could contribute to the idea of the unusual feeling created by the swing.
“That was my third game [of the swing], and I hadn’t check-swung. Normal swings felt fine. Normal check swings will probably be fine, too. I just got caught in between and it was just awkward all around,” he said. “I saw this morning. It didn’t look good. It didn’t look good. It just freaked me out. It was just a weird feeling. I didn’t want to take a chance with it because of the history of that wrist.”
Coincidentally, Middlebrooks was meeting with a representative about getting a padded batting glove on Thursday morning. However, that meeting had already been scheduled in order to discuss more protective options for the area that region of the wrist that Middlebrooks broke last year.
“I saw [the batting glove rep] this morning, and I was like, ‘God, they’re going to get a kick out of this,’ ” said Middlebrooks. “Today just happened to be the day that he came down here. He didn’t even know it happened. We tried some things with a shell, but everything was hard, and it was by that joint so I couldn’t move. They’re going to do some stuff similar to what they did with [padding for Dustin Pedroia ‘s batting glove], with his thumb. It’s a thicker pad, but bendable. So we’re going to try to get a little bit over that area, which has nothing to do with last night. It’s just in case of getting hit.”
The biggest wound right now, he suggested, is to his pride, given the friendly teasing that he’s absorbing from teammates for his initial panic in the face of what now seems like it may be a non-injury.
“I’m not hurt,” said Middlebrooks. “I’ve got my tail tucked a little bit. That’s about it.”
For obvious reasons, not the least of which is the team’s lack of depth at third base , the team is tremendously relieved by the diagnosis.
“We’re talking about a guy who is just in the stages of what looks to be a very productive career — a 24-year-old guy who can hit with power, hit with average. He certainly lengthens out our lineup with a right-handed power bat,” said Farrell. “We’re counting on him for upward of 150 games. Barring injury, that’s the type of player he is.’