CLEVELAND So Will Middlebrooks will be the next Red Sox player to go down with an injury during a star-crossed season?
Middlebrooks suffered a fractured right wrist after taking a fastball off the bony part of his lower hand in the ninth inning of Friday nights win over the Indians.
The Red Sox will call up recently acquired Danny Valencia for the open roster spot, but theyve got several options to choose from while scattering to replace one of Bostons best hitters this season. Middlebrooks is hitting .288.325.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 267 at bats as an energizing rookie in the Sox mix, and hes been one of the consistent bright spots on an otherwise mediocre baseball club.
So how do the Sox replace him?
Theyve got a number of different possibilities.
Surely the Sox will want to get a look at Valencia after acquiring him during the August waiver deadline. The former Twins third baseman was hitting .198.212.310 in 34 games with the Twins this season, and went 3-for-7 in his first two games with Triple-A Pawtucket before his promotion. Theres also Nick Punto, but hes more of a stopgap solution than a guy the Sox are willing to play over the next seven weeks.
Mike Aviles also sits as a potential option at third base given his versatility across the infield, and the potential that the Sox could call up Jose Iglesias to play some shortstop.
The Sox shortstop prospect has picked it up offensively at Pawtucket, and his promotion would fit right in with a youth movement Boston should be embracing given their present state of going nowhere in the standings.
Hes actually hitting .300 with an OPS over .700 in his last seven games, and has raised his overall season batting average to the .259 mark at Triple-A.
Theres also the possibility of sliding PedroCiriaco in as the permanent shortstop, and moving Aviles over to third base on a regular basis. It would give the Sox a chance to truly evaluate Ciriaco, and what the future holds for him in Boston. Hes only played a handful of games at third base over the last two seasons in the Pirates organization, and hes looked comfortable at shortstop.
The timing is interesting given Bobby Valentines musings prior to Friday nights win when he wondered aloud whether Ciriaco had a future as some kind of super-utility guy. Hes been working with coach Alex Ochoa on getting comfortable playing in the outfield with an eye toward being able to play Ciriaco five or six days a week while shifting him all over the field.Hes getting a little more playing time with DH-ing and hes been very productive. I talked to him about playing left field on Friday. I almost did it. If hed given me a little more assurance after working out there for a couple of days that hed be able to do the job, I would have started him. But he isnt there yet, said Valentine. He talks a little more time than youd like to see getting rid of the ball at shortstop. His release is a little slow, but he can work on that.
Hes a pretty good player. When we had him earlier this year in a perfect world he should have been playing the outfield and some third base, but they needed him at second base. Maybe well get some winter time ball to do that. He seems to be way too valuable to not be too versatile.
That kind of versatility from a player could be highly useful as injuries this season continue to tie the managers hands behind his back. Valentine also wanted to be careful not to rule out the 26-year-old Ciriaco still developing into an every day player after his short stint in Boston. Hes hitting .341.349.482 in 28 games and the Sox want to get a longer look at him before making any kind of determinations.
There are a lot of everyday players that dont have his skill, said Valentine. He runs fast enough. He throws well enough to play in the outfield. It depends on how his workouts go with Ochoa.
But no matter what the Sox do, theres no denying that the loss of Middlebrooks is dealing a fatal blow to a team that had only a sliver of playoff hope to begin with.