Red Sox Mailbag: Kevin Youkilis’ Return May Mean Return to Pawtucket for Will Middlebrooks

Red Sox Mailbag: Kevin Youkilis' Return May Mean Return to Pawtucket for Will MiddlebrooksPHILADELPHIA — It’s that time again. With interleague play starting this weekend against the Phillies, the Red Sox will shuffle up the lineup, likely giving Adrian Gonzalez a few reps in the outfield while slotting David Ortiz at first base.

In the process, the Red Sox will also be reunited with Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a lucrative deal with the Phillies over the offseason, during the series. Amid all the storylines, let’s take a look at this week’s mailbag.

What is the point of keeping Will Middlebrooks in the majors if the Sox are going to let Youk back into the lineup and bat a near .200 average and strike out all the time? Why do we have to waste a young player’s time by giving them the chance to prove themselves and that they belong in the majors? They earn it, and then we disown them and send them back to the minors? We need to trade Youk away and get value for him before it’s too late, why doesn’t Bobby and management wake up and say that Middlebrooks earned the starting 3B job and Youk is out?
-Mike Bertolini, Suffield

First off, if the Red Sox slot Kevin Youkilis back into the lineup, Will Middlebrooks likely wouldn’t stay in the majors. Earlier this week, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine insinuated that the bench isn’t an option for a rising star like Middlebrooks.

The reason is the Red Sox wouldn’t want Middlebrooks to lose his momentum by lounging on the bench. As a result of the situation, the 23-year-old would return to Pawtucket to get more at-bats and stay in game shape.

As polarizing as the decision is, it would be a smart move. The Red Sox need more time to evaluate Youkilis and –– if a trade is conceivable –– Youkilis would need to play in the majors, so opposing scouts can properly gauge his worth.

Unless they’re willing to take less than fair compensation, teams usually wouldn’t trade a player straight off the disabled list.

Would the Red Sox rather trade for a starting pitcher or hope the starters turn it around and go after a relief pitcher?
-Adrian G, Bordentown

In an ideal world, the Red Sox would prefer to avoid making trades and work with the roster in its current state. But if they were presented with an opportunity to improve the team, I’d venture a guess it’d be starting pitching.

As of now, that doesn’t appear to be a necessity with the Red Sox rotation showing vast improvement in the past week. Plus, with Aaron Cook and Daisuke Matsuzaka working to return, there are viable reinforcements on the starting end.

But the Red Sox are currently stacked with depth in the bullpen — so upgrades aren’t really needed. In fact, the bullpen pipeline is so deep that relievers like Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen and Mark Melancon are stuck in Pawtucket for the time being.

Tazawa and Mortensen have dazzled in their short stints in the majors while Melancon has been nearly unhittable in Triple-A since his demotion.

Why does Bryce Harper get so much more national pub over Will Middlebrooks even with a better start?
-@Soxfan1572, via Twitter

Pretty simple, Bryce Harper was the top pick in the 2010 MLB draft. The hype machine has surrounded him since he was plastered all over the Sports Illustrated cover –– at age 16 –– when he was tabbed the Chosen One.

When you’re dubbed the Chosen One, the attention is bound to come. Harper also brings the publicity upon himself with his brash and cocky attitude on and off the baseball diamond.

Middlebrooks was never atop many draft boards and flew under the radar during the majority of his minor league career. He also doesn’t draw much public attention to himself with any antics.

Sooner or later, though, Middlebrooks will get his share of national love because he is very talented.

How’s [Mark] Melancon been doing in Pawtucket?
-@shawno306, via Twitter

He’s been on fire since his demotion to Triple-A. In 13 innings of work for Pawtucket, he’s only allowed nine hits and hasn’t surrendered a single run. He’s struck out 21 batters and converted five saves.

Valentine hasn’t forgotten about Melancon. There just isn’t any room on the team’s roster for him, considering the way the bullpen has performed over the past few weeks.

It’s a roster issue, not a talent issue. If an injury occurs or a reliever starts suffering setbacks, Melancon will likely be next in line for a recall. 

When do you think Matt Barnes will be up? Two years or three?
-@keith_inchierca, via Twitter

Through eights professional starts — with the Greenville Drive and Salem Red Sox — Barnes has posted a 4-0 record with a 0.60 ERA. During that stretch, the pitcher has also struck out 67 and walked six.

It’s a strong start, but we simply can’t predict when guys will get opportunities down the road. It all depends on his health, his ability to adapt to the talent as he moves forward and flexibility of the major league roster whenever he’s seasoned enough.

But he’s making all the strides an organization would want to see right now. For now, that’s most important to the Red Sox.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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