Will Middlebrooks is currently on a rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Boston third baseman is dealing with a back injury, but while the Red Sox have the opportunity to do so thanks to the maximum 20 days a erhab assignment allows, they're keeping him in the minors to make sure he comes back to the bigs with some momentum -- it's not a bad idea, considering sending him to the minors at any other time would require burning an option.
Manager John Farrell pushed the idea that this was not a demotion for Middlebrooks last week, at the time it was announced he could stay a little longer than initially expected. He's taken that one step further to start off this week:
"Will's our third baseman," he said. "We've said that. But yet at the same time, Jose is doing an excellent job, and once Will's returned and the roster decision is made, if the scenario is that Jose is our utility guy, we've got to be sure that we rotate him through there to keep him in the mix."
What Farrell might mean there -- other than the reminder that it's Middlebrooks' job to play third daily -- is that, if Iglesias is to stay in the majors even after Middlebrooks returns, it won't necessarily be in the same role as currently utility man Pedro Ciriaco. Ciriacio has played sparingly, with 28 games on the season and just 12 of those starts, and only that many because of the various infield injuries the Red Sox have dealt with between Middlebrooks and shortstop Stephen Drew. Iglesias would likely play more often, spelling Drew at short, Middlebrooks at third, and maybe even giving Dustin Pedroia some time off at second.
Iglesias has hit well enough this season that he's completely reversed his career line, and now is the owner of a .291/.354/.392 major-league line that's good for a 100 OPS+ over 166 plate appearances. It's a small sample, but given his struggles in the past and his failure to produce a season like this in the minors, it's a significant step forward. Having Iglesias around to take starts from three-fourths of the infield is a much better use of a roster spot than Ciriaco at this point, and it also allows them Middlebrooks insurance at third that did not previously exist when the team entered the season with just Ciriaco as a backup option.
If all goes well in the next few days, Middlebrooks should return to the hot corner, and Iglesias to a bench role -- just one that's maybe more important and spotlighted than what the player he is replacing was doing.
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