BOSTON — Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was on the cusp of stardom until his 2012 season was derailed by a fractured wrist. Now, Middlebrooks seemingly is dealing with one setback after another as he looks to transform himself into a consistent major leaguer.
Middlebrooks was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a fractured right index finger. It marks the 25-year-old’s second stint on the DL this season and his third since the beginning of 2013. Middlebrooks certainly has seen better days.
“It’s been a long couple years,” Middlebrooks said before Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. “I’ve got to hang in there. Things will turn around, hopefully. Just keep grinding it out.”
Middlebrooks burst onto the scene in 2012, hitting .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 75 games. He was one of Boston’s few bright spots amid the disastrous Bobby Valentine era, and it looked like he’d be a stalwart in the middle of the Red Sox’s lineup for years to come — starting in 2013.
The sky-high expectations never were met last season, though. Middlebrooks struggled mightily out of the gate, and he landed on the DL with a back strain at the end of May. Things didn’t get any easier upon his return, and Middlebrooks was shipped to Triple-A Pawtucket at the end of June. He showed strides upon returning in early August, but Xander Bogaerts eventually became the Red Sox’s starting third baseman in the playoffs after Middlebrooks again faltered.
2014 represented a fresh start. Unfortunately for Middlebrooks, not much has changed. He landed on the DL with a calf strain in April, and he now heads to the shelf for a second time with a .197 average and .305 on-base percentage in 21 games. It’s been a rough season for Middlebrooks from both a health and a performance standpoint.
“He’s expanded the zone up on some fastballs and of late (in) his coverage of the plate away on some sliders, particularly (Friday) against a guy who’s got an outstanding one in (Tigers ace Max) Scherzer,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday while assessing Middlebrooks’ struggles against right-handers this season. “There’s been some swing and miss on some above-average fastballs in terms of velocity up and expanding the plate off the plate away.”
Middlebrooks’ work ethic is undeniable. He arrived at spring training this year in excellent shape, and he really emerged as a leader in the Red Sox’s clubhouse despite last season’s woes. The hard work hasn’t translated into on-field success in the regular season, though, and he now has yet another ailment to deal with on top of everything else.
“I think I’m pretty due for (a change of fortunes),” Middlebrooks said Saturday. “We’ll see.”
Photo via Twitter/@SoxNH