Middlebrooks reluctantly takes day off

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine informed rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks early Saturday that he would not be in the lineup against the Minnesota Twins as he would have a much-deserved day off.

Veteran infielder Nick Punto will start at third base, which will be his first game action since July 22, a span of 11 games.

Middlebrooks, who is hitting .290 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 2, has played every game since the All-Star break.

“I wanted to get him a day off two days ago, but he talked me out of it,” Valentine said. “It should have been two days ago. We all need days off and he's out working every day early and this will do him great.”

“I don’t want one,” Middlebrooks said. “I want to play. It’s fine. I’ll take it and take advantage of it, rest and be ready to go [Sunday].”

Valentine said he based his decision on the 23-year-old needing a day off on his managerial experience.

“One of the things you’re allowed to do, after you’ve done things for a long time, is use your experience and when I see it and feel it, I know it’s about that time,” Valentine said. “It’s about that time. I think everyone sees it.”

Middlebrooks is 0-for-8 the last two games after posting a career-high nine-game hitting streak. He hit .394 (13-for-33) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs during that stretch. Valentine said he’s also been impressed with Middlebrooks’ defense.

“All that early work, and also more time, and his experience has made him a real improved third baseman, in particular his backhand,” Valentine said.