Will Middlebrooks must have missed this whole major league thing.
Middlebrooks has raked since being recalled from Pawtucket on Aug. 10, proving that his prolonged big league slump earlier this season could indeed be just a footnote in a very successful career. The hot streak comes at a good time for the Red Sox, and it might ultimately force manager John Farrell to make an important lineup adjustment.
Middlebrooks on Wednesday drilled his second home run since rejoining the Red Sox as Boston coasted to a 12-1 win in San Francisco. His two-run blast, which was his 11th homer of the season, opened the scoring and put the wheels in motion on a very productive afternoon for the Red Sox’ offense.
The Red Sox are a pedestrian 5-6 since Middlebrooks’ recall, but the 24-year-old has certainly done his part. Middlebrooks has reached in all 11 games since returning — collecting a hit in all but one. He’s hitting .441 (15-for-34) with two homers, five RBIs and three doubles, and he’s looking more and more like the player who burst onto the scene in 2012.
“I’m just more comfortable,” Middlebrooks said. “Everyone wants to say I changed my approach. I didn’t really change my approach. I’m just more consistent with it. You get confidence when you get results. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. I just started getting some knocks and the confidence started going up. I’m just trusting myself again.”
As long as Middlebrooks keeps trusting himself, the Red Sox will trust him as well. He’s playing at an extremely high level — raising his average from .192 to .228 since being recalled — and he’s back into a position where he controls his own big league fate.
Farrell didn’t rule out the possibility of Middlebrooks eventually sliding up into the No. 5 spot in Boston’s order when asked about such a scenario over the weekend, and the idea makes more and more sense with each successful performance. Middlebrooks’ bread and butter, of course, is his power, and while he’s currently lengthening the Red Sox’ lineup by way of producing out of the No. 8 and No. 9 spots, Boston could use his right-handed pop behind David Ortiz.
Farrell recently dropped Mike Napoli to seventh in the order because he wasn’t getting the job done. Napoli has since dealt with a foot ailment, and a few different players have been plugged into the No. 5 hole. There’s no reason why Middlebrooks can’t eventually slot in behind Ortiz if everything keeps going down the current path.
Middlebrooks must continue to show consistency. After all, it was a lack of consistency that led to his demotion in June. But if the current version of Middlebrooks sticks around, it shouldn’t be long before he finds himself batting fifth, which, ironically enough, was his Opening Day lineup spot.
Sometimes, these things just work out.
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