Will Middlebrooks is impacted by the Stephen Drew saga more than anyone else, yet the 25-year-old insists that he’s not paying attention to the situation.
Middlebrooks currently is slated to be the Red Sox’ starting third baseman in 2014, but that could change if Boston re-signs Drew. Xander Bogaerts figures to be an integral part of the Red Sox’ infield, and the 21-year-old likely would see a big chunk of playing time at third base with Drew in the mix, consequently impacting Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, however, that he’s more focused on preparing for the upcoming season than on what moves the Red Sox might make.
“I haven’t talked to anyone about it,” Middlebrooks recently told Bradford. “I haven’t even talked to Stephen. I have to prepare like I’m the starting third baseman for the Red Sox. So I’m going to prepare, because regardless of what happens, I’m going to be playing baseball somewhere. I’m hoping it’s in Boston because this is where I want to spend my career. I love it here. We’ll see, but, like I said, I’m going to be playing baseball, so I have to be ready.”
Middlebrooks is coming off a disappointing campaign. The former fifth-round pick showed a ton of promise in 2012 and was expected to man the hot corner in 2013, but he struggled out of the gate, leading to a June demotion. Middlebrooks eventually returned to the Red Sox and showed improvement down the stretch, but he once again struggled in the postseason, paving the way for Bogaerts to become Boston’s everyday third baseman.
“It’s one of those things, it was a year I wasn’t happy with how things went. I’m just trying to get back to where I want to be baseball-wise,” Middlebrooks told Bradford. “We won a World Series, which was great, and there was experience from that to gain. But what a lot of people don’t see is when you struggle and don’t do well, that’s when you learn the most. It’s all easy when you’re doing well. It’s a cakewalk. But when you struggle or try and play through an injury, that’s when you really learn. It’s nice when you’re teammates are on your side. You really, really gain a lot of knowledge from it.”
The Red Sox, theoretically, could trade Middlebrooks if they re-sign Drew, as the left side of the infield would be crowded. Boston dealt shortstop Jose Iglesias to land Jake Peavy from the White Sox in July, and general manager Ben Cherington certainly is willing to think outside the box. Middlebrooks, who hit .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 75 games in 2012, still is young with plenty of potential, though, so the most likely scenario is that he’ll stay with the club, even if his role is undefined.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard,” Middlebrooks told Bradford of the Red Sox’ roster uncertainty. “I have enough trust and confidence in my ability that I’m going to have a job somewhere regardless of where it is. I want to be here. I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to play in Boston. Every player’s dream is to play on the team that has a chance to win the World Series every year, and not many people can say that. This is where I want to be. This is the group of veterans I was introduced to the big leagues with and these are the guys I want to play with.”
Middlebrooks hit .227 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs in 94 games in 2013. He’ll look to build on those numbers while maintaining the positive attitude that has been a staple in his repertoire since Day 1.