Will Middlebrooks’ future with the Boston Red Sox has never been more uncertain.
Middlebrooks, marred in his second consecutive disappointing season following a promising start to his major league career in 2012, reached another low Tuesday against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts — all looking — while also committing an error, offering the latest indication the Red Sox might need to take a proactive approach with their young third baseman.
Red Sox manager John Farrell left open the possibility Wednesday of Middlebrooks playing winter ball somewhere after the 2014 season. The 25-year-old has been limited to 141 regular-season games and 553 plate appearances with the Red Sox since the beginning of 2013 because of various injuries.
“It would be beneficial, I think, to make up for some at-bats that might not have been there,” Farrell told reporters at Yankee Stadium before the Red Sox’s game against the New York Yankees. “He did get some regular at-bats while he was on a rehab assignment. But yeah, there have been a number of at-bats missed here this year. There’s been a conversation had, and yet, trying to work through that right now.”
The Red Sox’s hope entering this season was that Middlebrooks and shortstop Xander Bogaerts would prove capable of holding down the left side of the infield. Both players have struggled, however, and the Red Sox would be rolling the dice if they entered 2015 with the same dynamic.
Middlebrooks hit .288 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and an .835 OPS in 75 games in 2012 before a broken wrist derailed his season. He has regressed ever since, hitting .227 with a .696 OPS in 94 major league games last season and .183 with a .520 OPS in 47 big league contests this season.
“It’s I’m sure frustrating for him and frustrating for us to some degree because we know he has the talent to perform better. He’s got the ability to do that. The staff is trying to find ways to unlock that, and he’s trying to find ways to unlock that. It hasn’t happened yet,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters before Wednesday’s game in the Bronx. “He’s got to find himself as a major league hitter. We believe he will at some point, but there’s obviously a ways to go.”
Cherington also said Wednesday that Bogaerts still is viewed as a shortstop long-term, meaning the Red Sox likely will enter the offseason with a huge question mark hanging over the hot corner.