Middlebrooks connects for first home run

Middlebrooks connects for first home run
April 4, 2014, 8:45 pm
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON -- When Will Middlebrooks lofted a high fly ball into the Monster Seats in the third inning of Fenway Park's Opening Day game with the Brewers, it was not the culmination of some hitter's epiphany that the young third baseman experienced the night before in Baltimore.

Despite going a combined 0-for-7 in Boston's first two games against the Orioles, Middlebrooks said he felt good at the plate throughout. In his first at-bat of the third game of the series, he grounded into a double play. Still, he felt fine.

He had two hits in his next three at-bats and finished Friday's game 1-for-2 with a walk.

The out he made Friday was a loud one, stinging a Marco Estrada offering to center right at Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez.

Did something change after he hit into that double play that has allowed him to settle in offensively?

"Last couple of days I've felt good," he said. "First couple days I felt good. I just wasn't getting hits. That's part of it."

Middlebrooks' first hit of the season came after an attempted hit-and-run was called in the fourth inning with the Red Sox ahead 2-0 on Thursday. He fouled the pitch off as Xander Bogaerts took off, but then moments later flared a single into left field.

That play-call wasn't necessarily the genesis of a hot streak, Middlebrooks insisted.

"I don't think it makes you focus that much more," Middlebrooks said of being asked to hit-and-run. "You're swinging no matter what. More

or less you're just trying to get on top of the ball and hitting something hard on the ground so if you can hit it through that right side where that second baseman would be, [the runner] goes to third base. It's a big play if you can execute it. Tough play.

"I don't know if that got me locked in, but in the sequence of events it may look that way."

Middlebrooks has been handed the third baseman's job out of spring training and is trying to make good on the rare talents he possesses: power from the right side.

Given the opportunity last year, he scuffled at the plate with a .227 average, 17 home runs and 49 RBI.

He says he's healthy now, which will make a difference.

"In the spring after a tough year, my biggest thing is my body is feeling really good," Middlebrooks said. "It's in a good place. We just want to keep it there."