John Farrell explains why Will Middlebrooks got the call over Xander Bogaerts
|08.10.13 at 8:34 pm ET|
It always seemed unlikely that the third-base platoon of Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder was going to last until the end of the season. With both struggling at the plate recently, it was only a matter of time until either Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts got the chance to run with the position. The only question was which one would get the call.
We got our answer Saturday when the Red Sox promoted Middlebrooks and put Snyder on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury. The 20-year-old Bogaerts would’ve generated more buzz, and there was certainly a case to be made for calling him up ahead of Middlebrooks. In a similar number of Triple-A plate appearances this season (222 for Bogaerts, 196 for Middlebrooks), Bogaerts had the better batting average (.289 to .268), on-base percentage (.376 to .327) and slugging percentage (.469 to .464).
According to John Farrell, though, the Red Sox had good reason to go with Middlebrooks.
“Based on the recommendations of the people who have gone through there lately, as well as talking to [PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina], it was very clear in his mind that Will was the choice,” Farrell told reporters in Kansas City. “And that’s not to take anything away from Xander’s abilities. He’s swinging the bat well, but it’s more on the defensive side, the finer points of the game. Right now he continues to need his reps.”
Farrell said Bogaerts’ age — he’s the youngest player in the International League right now — wasn’t really a factor. His inexperience at third base — he’s a natural shortstop — was, however. The Red Sox simply feel more comfortable with Middlebrooks at third right now.
“It’s a matter of who’s the best fit right now for the needs that we have,” Farrell said. “We need an everyday third baseman, so that was the clear choice — Will — not only because he’s been a third baseman his entire pro career, but it’s also what he’s been doing lately.”
Farrell said the Red Sox still view Bogaerts as a shortstop in the long run, but he also said Bogaerts would split time between short and third for Pawtucket in order to get him more experience at third. Should Middlebrooks struggle or go down with an injury, the Red Sox want Bogaerts to be ready to step in.
As for Middlebrooks, he wasn’t just handed this promotion. The 24-year-old earned it by improving throughout his time in Pawtucket, culminating with an eight-game hitting streak over the last week and a half. He hit .333/.361/.545 during that stretch.
“It just started clicking for me,” Middlebrooks told reporters. “Made a couple of minor adjustments. Nothing too huge, but something that worked for me and has me feeling really good. … I have all my direction going to the middle of the field and it just keeps me through the ball a little bit.”
Middlebrooks admitted he had a tough time accepting his demotion to Pawtucket back in June, but he said he was eventually able to put it behind him and get back to focusing on baseball.
“The first couple weeks were tough,” Middlebrooks said. “I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t see the big picture of things. I just saw the right now, and that was I got sent down, I lost my job. I don’t want to be here. And I got over that. With DiSar and [hitting coach Dave Joppie] down there, those are guys that have been with me from the bottom up. Just a really good foundation for me to get my feet back under me and get back to the basics and start having fun again.”
Middlebrooks said that going back to Triple-A taught him not to take anything for granted. He said that this time around, he’s just going to enjoy being with the Red Sox and not worry about expectations or anything that’s out of his control.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Middlebrooks said. “This is still just a game. I’ve had too much pressure. I put too much pressure on myself early in the year to live up to expectations and things like that, and that’s one of the things that hurt me. I’m just going to play baseball. I just want to have fun and I just want to be a kid again.”
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