With need for everyday at-bats, Will Middlebrooks sent to Triple-A
|06.25.13 at 6:46 pm ET|
Last year, it appeared that Will Middlebrooks had arrived as the Red Sox’ third baseman, a roster cornerstone. He may yet fulfill that expectation, but not without a detour back to the minor leagues.
The Red Sox optioned Middlebrooks to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday afternoon prior to their series opener against the Rockies. Middlebrooks, who had a breakout year in 2012, has struggled offensively in 2013, hitting just .192 with a .228 OBP and .389 slugging mark along with nine home runs and 25 RBI.
This will be Middlebrooks’ second stint in Pawtucket this month. Earlier in June he remained in Pawtucket following a rehab stint, hoping to get some momentum before returning to the Boston. Middebrooks produced in Pawtucket, hitting .294 with two home runs and six RBIs over five games.
However he continued to struggle upon his return to Boston on June 10. With Jose Iglesias playing at an extraordinary level, in the process supplanting Middlebrooks as the everyday third baseman, the Sox felt that the only way for Middlebrooks to rediscover the swing that made him such an impressive prospect was with everyday playing time in the minors.
“First of all, his skills haven’t gone backwards. He’s still a very talented player,” said Farrell. “And the consistent work will allow him to reproduce the swing he showed last year, and showed throughout spring training and recognizing that this year there were some struggles for him, but this isn’t uncommon for a young player. … This became about Will getting regular at-bats.”
During Middlebrooks’ rehab assignment while returning from the DL, Farrell remained adamant that Middlebrooks was the Sox everyday third baseman. However, Iglesias’ unexpected offensive production has provided the Sox with some depth at third base and has enabled this roster move for the time being. “You’ve got a guy that’s getting multiple hits a game for a period of time, and for the short run-he’s [Iglesias] our third base man.”
Farrell spoke to Middlebrooks Tuesday afternoon and while Middlebrooks was understandably disappointed, Farrell said he realized this was a speed bump to establishing himself as a major leaguer. Certainly, many players have found themselves shuttled up and down the system for a few years before solidifying themselves as major leaguers. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz underwent similar experiences on becoming his way to a major league superstar. Ortiz, debuted with the Minnesota Twins in 1997, but did not establish himself as an everyday player until 2000.
While it is impossible to predict the career path of a young player, it is evident and widely understood that Middlebrooks is a talented young player, who hasn’t seen his last days in Boston. When asked if there was a timetable for Middlebrooks’ return, Farrell insisted there was not. And he repeated that this stint in Pawtucket wouldn’t be about numbers. Rather, it’s about Middlebrooks going about his routine as an everyday player and returning to the swing that showed so much potential last year.
“He’s an important part of us today as much as he is going forward, and for him to get back on track, to make an impact with us, he needs everyday at-bats,” said Farrell. “He understood it, knows he’s got to get back to everyday play — and we view him as an everyday player, not a bench player, so that’s where we are today.”
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