When the Boston Red Sox get Will Middlebrooks back from injury, it appears they have a plan to fit him into their lineup. According to Maureen Mullen of Boston.com, the longtime third baseman will start taking reps in the outfield while he rehabs with Triple-A Pawtucket, potentially offering a glimpse of his changing role upon returning to Boston.
As Mullen notes, moving Middlebrooks to the outfield seems like a pretty reasonable decision at this point. With Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew and Brock Holt holding down the infield, there’s no longer an obvious spot for Middlebrooks at his original position on the hot corner.
The outfield, on the other hand, has been a mess for Boston this season, and adding Middlebrooks to the mix seems like one way of addressing that. Sox outfielders have batted .231 with a combined 10 homers and .639 OPS this season, according to Mullen, which sets a pretty low bar for Middlebrooks to meet.
Even last season, when the 25-year-old was battling through a sophomore slump, he posted stronger numbers than this year’s outfielders. Over 660 plate appearances in 2012-13, Middlebrooks batted .254/.294/.462 with 32 doubles and 32 home runs, flashing enough power to be a league-average hitter despite his terrible on-base percentage.
If he can even come close to replicating that for the remainder of 2014, it would be a major boost to an offense that could use some help. During a brief 21-game stint earlier this season, Middlebrooks batted .197/.305/.324, but the small sample size and injury downplay the usefulness of those numbers.
Either way, it’s interesting to see the Red Sox making this kind of move because Middlebrooks has never played outfield professionally before. Whether he can actually make the transition remains to be seen, but clearly the Red Sox are willing to get creative as they try to add some punch to their lineup.
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