FORT MYERS, Fla. — Will Middlebrooks needed to alter his offseason workout regimen to account for the massive chip on his shoulder.
While Middlebrooks obviously enjoyed the Boston Red Sox’s World Series triumph in 2013, the third baseman struggled from an individual standpoint, leaving a lot to be desired as he prepares to enter his third major league campaign.
“I’ve said it a million times, last year sucked for me,” Middlebrooks said Monday at JetBlue Park. “It’s not fun and I don’t want to do it again.
“Looking at the team, of course, we won the World Series. That’s as good as it gets,” Middlebrooks added. “But individually, I felt like I could have contributed more, and that’s my goal this year.”
Middlebrooks hit just .227 and struck out 98 times in 94 regular-season games last season. The 25-year-old was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in June, and although he returned to enjoy a solid August, the former fifth-round draft pick was supplanted by Xander Bogaerts as the Red Sox’s starting third baseman in the playoffs.
Middlebrooks, clearly motivated by last season’s struggles, worked with well-known strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle over the offseason. Middlebrooks implemented a new workout regimen that included more heavy lifting in the hopes of eliminating nagging injuries and staying fresh for the duration of a 162-game grind.
“If you don’t feel well or you’re playing at 75 percent every day, you’re not going to help your team out,” Middlebrooks told NESN.com last week. “You can try to be a tough guy and grind out everything, but at a certain point you have to realize it’s not going to help your team out as much as you’re trying to.”
Middlebrooks also recruited the help of former Red Sox infielder/current Los Angeles Angels infielder John McDonald, a native of New London, Conn. Middlebrooks said the pair worked on infield drills geared toward barehanded plays and improving the third baseman’s footwork.
The Red Sox have high hopes for Middlebrooks, who burst onto the scene in 2012 by hitting .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 75 games before going down with a season-ending wrist injury. Middlebrooks is eager to prove that level of production was just the tip of the iceberg rather than an aberration.
“When you’re new in the league, there’s a lot of guys you face on a daily basis you haven’t really seen before,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s just getting to know those guys’ arms, getting to know their stuff, getting to know catchers, how they like to call games, and then kind of just fine-tuning my approach.”
Middlebrooks’ approach, preparation and overall game still are evolving. The results could evolve, too.