While the ailing third baseman hopes to return before the end of the season, the likely prognosis is for him to be out well beyond the Oct. 3 season finale. Boston now has to look at its options to try to fill the void.
Nick Punto has been a viable solution at the hot corner in Middlebrooks' stead at times, but Pedro Ciriaco has also played well when called upon this season. This could be a good way to get the utility infielder into the lineup on a regular basis.
We tackle that topic and more in this week's mailbag.
With Will Middlebrooks out, will the Red Sox consider playing Pedro Ciriaco or Mike Aviles at third and the other play at short?
— Don Anderson
I could see both filling in. Bobby Valentine made it clear during the spring how much he liked Pedro Ciriaco, and now you can see why. However, Ciriaco has played third the least of his time in the minors. Valentine said earlier in the week that he could see a scenario where Ciriaco would go to winter ball to play some outfield to add to his versatility. I think Nick Punto and Danny Valencia will get some time also. I know Punto has had a tough time offensively, but I think his limited playing time has hurt his timing at the plate.
It is clear to me that our pitching has let us down this season. What is your opinion on this?
— Benjamin Smith
I guess I am on the optimistic side, but I still believe there is a scenario where this can turn around. I have been surprised by Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. They have not been able to go on a run, and if the Red Sox are going to contend down the stretch, both have to be better than we expected. The pitching as a group was a question mark in the spring, when the 4 and 5 spots were up for grabs, and it remains an issue in August. They just did not plan on Lester/Beckett struggling.
What do you think of Bob McClure as the pitching coach? Seems like the rotation isn't responding to him and hasn't all season.
— Tom Roosa
I cannot pin this on Bob McClure in any way. To me it is more about a third pitching coach in three years. That is very unusual and very disruptive even for veteran pitchers. John Farrell was very good, as was Curt Young, who is again having great success with a young Oakland staff. I think McClure’s body of work cannot be criticized until he has had a year-plus to be heard. He is a good pitching coach. I just think the number of coaches in this spot has been a problem for the pitching staff, not the individual coaches.
Why don't they play Scott Podsednik? He's hitting .380!
— Derek Emery
Its hard to start him ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford or Cody Ross. If Crawford's wrist continues to be a problem, I do think you will see more of Scott Podsednik. Crawford said his wrist is bothering him, but he had three hits with a sore wrist Sunday in Cleveland. I am glad Podsednik is back. When he is healthy, he is fun to watch, and he still has good speed at his age. He is also playing to prove he still belongs in the majors.
How should the Red Sox handle Big Papi — shut him down or bring him back?
— Debbie Madsen
I would bring him back when he is ready, and I would re-sign him this off season. I am in the camp of giving him a two-year deal. I am pretty confident that he will stay in the shape he is in and will be productive for the next two seasons at the very least. The numbers have to work for the Sox, but I think he has proven that he is still one of the game's best offensively.