Middlebrooks hopes his sophomore slump is over

Middlebrooks hopes his sophomore slump is over
April 29, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Will Middlebrooks has gone 7-for-24 since his collision with the wall and David Ross on May 7.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON -- From his May 2 debut until his 2012 season ended on Aug. 10, with a broken right wrist after he was hit by a pitch, Will Middlebrooks had his name in the American League rookie of the year conversation, with a .288 average, an .835 OPS, 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 75 games. His solid play at third base allowed the Red Sox to trade veteran Kevin Youkilis in June.
 
This season, though, has gotten off to a slower start for Middlebrooks. On April 7 in Toronto, he went 4-for-5 with a career-high four hits, three home runs, and four RBI. In 14 games since then, entering the just-completed four-game series against the Astros, he was hitting .093, going 5-for-54 with 20 strikeouts, one home run, and four RBI.  Middlebrooks went 1-for-4 Sunday in the homestand finale against the Astros, he raised his average to .202, the first time he had been above .200 since April 15.
 
Sophomore slump?
 
“I don’t know,” said Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “Teams are going to see you, and they’re looking for weaknesses, and once they see one or something, they’re going to try to exploit it. But that’s part of hitting, just making adjustments and that’s how good hitters hit. They go up there and teams are going to try to pitch them one way, if they’re having success going another way. And good hitters make the adjustments.”
 
It appears Middlebrooks has been making those adjustments. After hitting in back-to-back games just three times this season before Friday, Middlebrooks now has a four-game hitting streak, in which he is batting .400, going 6-for-15, with a home run, two doubles, three runs scored, two RBI, a walk, and four strikeouts, for a 1.171 OPS.
 
The difference?
 
“Nothing,” Middlebrooks said. “I didn’t change a thing, just stuck with my approach, stuck with my routine, and just waited for it to change."
 
“I feel the same. I’m seeing the ball a little bit better, recognizing the pitches a little bit earlier. That was really the biggest thing, was just recognizing pitches.
 
“That’s just how it goes sometimes. Your eyes work some days, they don’t other days. But I was getting pitched really well. The mistakes I was getting I wasn’t ready for them and I was fouling them off. So then I was being forced to swing at pitchers’ pitches.”
 
“He’s put together a lot better at-bats,” Colbrunn added. “His swings, he’s battled his butt off. Even on some of the balls he’s missed. He just missed a home run or a double off the wall to center field, and the night before he had a great at-bat against one of the relievers. So his at-bats seem like they’re getting better and better.”
 
It was a matter of making adjustments and things just clicking.
 
“Little bit of both,” Colbrunn said. “Just making sure he’s getting a good pitch, making sure he’s short to the ball, using the whole, big part of the field. But just going up there, getting a good pitch and seeing it."
 
“He’s just learning the benefits of putting together routines, daily routines and taking one at-bat at a time. A lot of times young kids, they’ll get wrapped up in it. And veterans do it sometimes too, just trying to do too much, trying to get it all back with one swing, and feeling good and just getting back to basics and trying to hit the ball hard.”
 
For Middlebrooks, though, the struggles didn’t affect his confidence.
 
“It’s not a confidence thing,” he said. “I never lost my confidence. It’s just the fact of missing the good pitches and when you get to [counts of] 2-2, 1-2, you’re forced to swing at their pitch. You just got to hit yours earlier in the count.
 
“It really snowballs even worse when you try to change things up, and I just wanted to stick with what I do."
 
“It normally doesn’t last that long. So it was a frustrating couple of weeks for me, but hopefully it’s in the past.”