By Jeff Louderback
For the long term, 25-year-old Will Middlebrooks will likely occupy a corner infield spot for the Boston Red Sox. The right-handed hitter has 30 home run, 100 RBI potential, and he has demonstrated that offensive prowess at times in his Red Sox tenure that has included parts of two seasons. As for the American League Championship Series, Middlebrooks could share time with rookie Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox manager John Farrell hinted.
“It will be Middlebrooks (in Game One on Saturday), Farrell told reporters on Friday. “And then, based on some matchups, we’ve got some things that we’re looking at in a couple of different spots.”
The Detroit Tigers do not have a left-hander in their rotation, and Middlebrooks and Bogaerts hit from the right side, yet Farrell could give Bogaerts the start over Middlebrooks even though the 21-year-old Aruba native has just 50 regular season plate appearances and two ALDS plate appearances since making his Major League debut.
Bogaerts, who also features prodigious power potential, has more patience at the plate than Middlebrooks and does not give away at-bats. The two walks that he drew in Game Four at Tampa Bay (which resulted in two runs as well) show how valuable Bogaerts can be, even in the post-season spotlight and even though he has limited Major League experience.
After an atrocious first half of the 2013 season that saw him bat .192 and spend a stretch at Triple-A Pawtucket, Middlebrooks rebounded to hit .276 with eight home runs in 176 at-bats after he returned to the Red Sox in the second half. He did struggle in September, though, batting .244 with 22 strikeouts in 86 at-bats. Over his last 10 regular season games, he hit .195 with 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats. In the ALDS, Middlebrooks was 3-for-13 with just one RBI, three walks and four strikeouts.
Chances are, Bogaerts will play third base and Middlebrooks will move over to first base in 2013. During the ALCS, if Middlebrooks continues to scuffle at the plate, Farrell would be wise to give Bogaerts a chance. Though he is 21, Bogaerts has a veteran’s poise, and he has demonstrated that he can get on base without getting a hit.