Middlebrooks eager to play after last season's injury


Middlebrooks eager to play after last season's injury

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Will Middlebrooks' rookie season in the big leagues was one he won't forget.

It began well, with Middlebrooks taking over at third base from Kevin Youkilis, hitting .288 while adding 15 homers and 54 RBI. Then, just as it was getting going, Middlebrooks was struck on the hand by a pitch in early August and missed almost the final two months of 2012.

The team's last-place finish was bad enough, but being sidelined with an injury made it all the more frustrating.

Jokingly pronouncing himself "105 percent" healthy, Middlebrooks wants to put last season -- the injury and the 93 losses -- behind him.

"Everyone who was a part of it is (eager),'' he said, "and I had to sit back and just watch, so I feel like I'm even more (eager) at this point, ready to go. Sitting there in a cast, I couldn't hit, I couldn't throw. I don't know if that made it worse, but in my own mind, it did."

Middlebrooks spent the winter rehabbing from the broken hand, making his off-season a bit different than usual.

"The first month, I was really finishing up my rehab," said Middlebrooks. "But I took BP in New York (in the final series of the season); that was my goal at the end of the year, just so I could go into the off-season knowing I was ready to go, I can get my lifts in, have everything normal and and come to spring training ready to go."

He didn't start swinging until the week before Christmas.

"Everyone who's had a similar injury said 'You're going to go through an awkward stage where you don't really trust it,' " he said. "I'll give it a couple of weeks to get past that and get going."

Middlebrooks can remember a year ago at this time, when he felt a bit overwhelmed being in big league camp.

"Last year," said Middlebrooks, "I was stuck in the corner in here, wondering how long I'd be up here, kind of planning my way back down. Now, I have a job. Obviously, I come in with the mindset of trying to win that job. But it's completely different."

He knows he'll have be more consistent this season to avoid going backward. He played long enough for teams to put together a scouting report on him and make adjustments.

"The last month (of last season)," he said, "things completely changed. Pitchers' approach changed with me. It's just a cat-and-mouse game and you have to change along with it."

Bradley, Betts, Pedroia are A.L. Gold Glove finalists


Bradley, Betts, Pedroia are A.L. Gold Glove finalists

Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, Mookie Betts in right and Dustin Pedroia at second base are the Red Sox' finalists for the American League Gold Glove awards.

The Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar and the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier are the other A.L. center field finalists. The White Sox’ Adam Eaton and Astros’ George Springer are A.L. right field finalists. Joining Pedroia as second base finalists are the Mariners’ Robinson Cano and Tigers’ Ian Kinsler.

Peoria has won four Gold Gloves. Bradley and Betts have yet to win one.

The full list of finalists is here.  The awards will be presented on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. on ESPN

The Red Sox sent out a series of tweets backing each player’s candidacy.

Betts is also a front-runner for the American League Most Valuable Player.


Ortiz wins Hank Aaron Award as top hitter in American League


Ortiz wins Hank Aaron Award as top hitter in American League

CLEVELAND -- David Ortiz is heading into retirement with some more hardware.

The Boston Red Sox slugger captured the Hank Aaron Award on Wednesday as the top hitter in the American League this season. Budding Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant was honored as the top hitter in the National League.

The award was presented before Game 2 of the World Series between the Cubs and Cleveland. It was determined through a combination of fan voting and a panel that includes Aaron and other Hall of Fame players.

The 40-year-old Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs, 127 RBIs and 48 doubles in the 20th and final season of his major league career. His 541 career home runs rank 17th all-time.

The 24-year-old Bryant hit .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs while helping the Cubs cruise to the NL Central title and eventually a spot in the World Series. Shortly after being honored, Bryant singled in the first inning for his first Series hit.