Middlebrooks, who was traded to the San Diego Padres over the offseason for catcher Ryan Hanigan, is embracing his fresh start on the West Coast. The 26-year-old also recently defended his decision not to play winter ball, like the Red Sox requested, as his focus was solely on getting healthy for 2015.
“A lot of people didn’t know where I was physically. It was best for me to take that time off,” Middlebrooks told MLB.com this week. “What’s the point of getting 50 to 100 at-bats in winter ball and not be ready to go when the season starts? I knew what was best for my career, my team at the time, was to get healthy.
“I loved my time in Boston. But it’s tough to be called a selfish player when you are the furthest thing from that. For me, the No. 1 thing has always been my teammates and winning.”
Middlebrooks burst onto the scene in 2012, hitting .288 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and an .835 OPS. The performance created immense expectations, but the former fifth-round pick never lived up to his true potential in Boston during either of the following seasons.
“When you’re young, you think you’re Superman, especially when you come up and do really well,” Middlebrooks said. “Then, you have some struggles.”
Middlebrooks hit just .213 with 19 homers, 68 RBIs and a .629 OPS in 157 major league games in 2013 and 2014. He dealt with a myriad of injuries that clearly stunted his development, and his hope now is that a change of scenery and improved health will lead to bigger things with the Friars.
“I’m not the type of guy to say, ‘This hurts, I don’t want to play.’ But it’s hard to compete at the highest level when you are at about 60 percent,” Middlebrooks told MLB.com. “I got to the last two weeks of the (2014) season and I couldn’t even swing a bat. It’s tough not being able to help your team out.”
Middlebrooks couldn’t help the Red Sox much the last two years, though Boston did win a World Series in 2013. It’s a new chapter for both sides, and the slate has been wiped clean.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports Images
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