Will Middlebrooks has had a rough season. He's hitting just .201/.234/.408 after two months, and is currently on the disabled list with a back injury. While he's begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket, and will be eligible to return from the DL this weekend, that's not how things are going to work out for him. Red Sox manager John Farrell says that Middlebrooks can expect to stay in the minors until he can build some "momentum" at the plate.
It's not punitive, and he isn't likely to be kept in the minors past the 20-day limit for his rehab assignment. Instead, it sounds as if Farrell just wants Middlebrooks to get back to where he should be in his approach, and wants to give him an environment to do that in before returning to the majors. As the Red Sox don't have to burn an option on Middlebrooks while he's on a rehab assignment, the timing makes a lot of sense:
"This isn't going to be based on batting average," the manager said. "It's more important that, as he was showing more consistently before the injury, the ability to drive the ball into right-center field. That's when he's at his best. That's what we're looking for."
Middlebrooks, to his credit, seems to understand why he might stick with Pawtucket for a bit until things can turn around:
"We talked and we're just trying to get things back on track," said Middlebrooks from Pawtucket. "I've been grinding all year through some injuries, and we're just trying to make sure everything is normal and back to how I was pre-injuries. Of course I want to be a better player. I've hit a few homers and had some RBIs, but I'm not a .200 hitter."
This has a side benefit, besides the obvious of attempting to get one of Boston's better bats to the level he's supposed to be at. Jose Iglesias is currently in the majors in Middlebrooks' stead, and more time with the Sox means more time to see if he should be the one on the bench going forward, rather than at Pawtucket, allowing Boston to designate utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco for assignment to clear up a roster spot. That decision would have had to be made this weekend when Middlebrooks returns, but now it seems as if that trial could go on another week or so, if not more.
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