Sox demote struggling Middlebrooks

Sox demote struggling Middlebrooks
June 25, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Will Middlebrooks and the Red Sox put a hurting on the Blue Jays pitching staff
Sunday.

(USA Today Sports)

BOSTON -- With his performance dipping and his playing time greatly reduced, Will Middlebrooks was optioned to Pawtucket Tuesday for a chance to regain his hitting stroke.

The move means Jose Iglesias, who's hitting .426 and has reacheD base in 23 of the last 26 games, will become the Red Sox' everyday third baseman.

When Middlebrooks returned from a brief rehab appearance earlier this month, the Sox outlined a plan in which Iglesias would play "three or four times'' per week at either short or third. But the more Iglesias hit -- and the more Middlebrooks struggled -- it became apparent that Iglesias had become a regular, with Middlebrooks as the odd man out. In the team's recent four-game series in Detroit, Middlebrooks played the first game and then didn't get another at-bat in the final three games. 

John Farrell met with Middlebrooks at noon Tuesday and informed him of the move.

"This became about Will getting regular at-bats,'' said Farrell. "He's an important part of us today as much as he is going forward and for him to get back on track, to make an impact with us, he needs everyday at-bats and that's where he's headed right now.''

Middlebrooks had compiled a slash line of .192/.228/.389 in 53 games. His nine homers had him tied for third in that category with the Sox, but three of those came in one game in the second series of the year and the second-year player went long stretches without providing quality at-bats. Since returning from a DL stint (back), Middlebrooks was just 4-for-29 (.138).

It was all a far cry from a year ago, when Middlebrooks took over at third base from Kevin Youkilis and slugged .509 with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 75 games.

"His skills haven't gone backwards,'' insisted Farrell. "He's still a very talented player and the consistent work will allow him to reproduce the swing that he showed last year and showed throughout the course of spring  training. Recognizing that this year there were some struggles for him, but this isn't uncommon for a young player.

"To take a step back now (with an eye toward the bigger picture), he's finding his way to becoming a major league player. And part of that [involves] taking a step back and that's exactly what's taking place.''

When informed of the move, Farrell said Middlebrooks was naturally  "disappointed. No player likes to get sent out. But he understoof it and knows he's got to get back to everyday play. And we view him as an everyday player, not a bench player. He's going down to play every day.''

Middlebrooks seemed to be fighting himself the more his performance suffered and playing every day -- even if it's at the minor-league level -- could help him regain the right mental approach.

"Every player's going to go through ebbs and flows with confidence,'' said Farrell. "While he would get on some short stretches where he would dominante some games from an offensive standpoint, there were a number of games that were on the flipside of that. So we've got to get him back to everyday at-bats.''

But the problems aren't all mental.

"There's been a little bit of a tendency to either try to lift rather than a strong line drive approach that's normal for him,'' said Farrell. "We saw it in spring training. (But) it's hard to be critical of that when you're not in the lineup every day, as well. That's why we think this is the best thing for Will and ultimately, the best thing for all of us.''

To take Middlebrooks' spot on the roster, the Red Sox promoted Brandon Snyder from Pawtucket. Snyder is adept at both first and third base. Snyder hit .267 with 10 homers and 37 RBI in 63 games for Pawtucket.

"It's a great feeling,'' said Snyder of the opportunity. "Anytime you get a chance to fufill that dream of getting back up to the big leagues, it's great. But it's even better when you change teams, in a new environment, and get a chance to do it with the Red Sox. What a franchise to be able to come up with and it's a pleasure.''

Snyder has spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues -- in 2010 and 2011 with Baltimore and last year with Texas.