How Will Middlebrooks became a power-hitting second baseman Wednesday
|08.21.13 at 8:52 pm ET|
SAN FRANCISCO – Heading into the home half of the seventh inning Wednesday night, Will Middlebrooks looked down the dugout and saw Red Sox manager John Farrell holding up two fingers.
“I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Middlebrooks said following his team’s 12-1 win over the Giants at AT&T Park.
It was then explained to him that for the first time in his 24 years on this planet he was about to play second base.
The closest Middlebrooks had ever come to manning the middle of the infield had come as a high school shortstop. But nothing at second base, not even during a workout.
“I haven’t worked on it,” he said. “I haven’t turned a play up the middle since I was 18 in Texarkana, Texas, so it’s been a while.”
But the inexperience didn’t stop the Red Sox.
They had decided upon demoting Brock Holt that if there was a need to give Dustin Pedroia any time off at second base, it would be Middlebrooks who would fill in. The team had been hesitant to introduce Xander Bogaerts to the position, needing the 20-year-old to strictly focus on the left side of the infield.
So with the Red Sox comfortably in front by 10 runs, manager John Farrell figured it was a good time to tryout Middlebrooks at second.
“We know he’s a good athlete and we’ve taken a look at him, not only at first base, but when we put him on the pull side to the left-handers on the shift,” Farrell said. “We felt he was the logical choice to put in that position and he played it for three innings of work flawlessly.”
The infielder was presented with two chances upon taking over for Pedroia (with Bogaerts going over to third base) – first, teaming with shortstop Stephen Drew to turn a 6-4-3 double play in the seventh, before adeptly handling a ninth-inning grounder just to the right of him.
“Probably turning the DP, that was a lot of fun,” said Middlebrooks when asked what was the most enjoyable part of his experience. “That was out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. That was a lot of fun.”
He later added, “It really wasn’t that big of a difference. It wasn’t a big deal.”
What has been a significant change has been the production supplied by Middlebrooks since his promotion Aug. 10.
After 11 games he has morphed the Red Sox’ third base position to one of the least offensively productive in the big leagues for much of the second half, to one of the most potent.
After launching a two-run homer over the left field wall Wednesday, Middlebrooks is hitting .441 with a 1.241 OPS since returning to the Red Sox. It has given the Red Sox the second-highest batting average at the third base position of any team in the majors during the stretch.
“Just more comfortable,” he said. “Everyone wants to say I changed my approach. I didn’t really change my approach. I’m just more consistent with it. You get confident when you get results, and unfortunately that’s just how it is. I started to get some knocks and the confidence just started going up, and I’m just trusting myself again.”
“In the box, he’s a little bit more squared up with his stance,” Farrell said. “It’s allowed him to stay through the middle of the field and have plate coverage to the outside part of the plate where I think before he went down, in addition to pressing a little bit, he might have been pulling off some pitches more. And I think he’s back to where he was last year for the time he was here.”
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