Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. In his fourth installment, he discusses the loss of Joel Hanrahan for the season, how he and the team are handling their recent struggles, allegations against teammates, and how his mother has influenced him. (--As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
I'll start with the news we got Saturday about Joel Hanrahan needing season-ending surgery [to repair the flexor tendon in his right forearm]. It's tough. You don't want to lose anyone. We're all family here. We pull for each other and we don't want to see anyone go down, especially for the whole season. This situation certainly is no fun, but we're behind him and he's certainly in our prayers.
I've been able to dodge serious injury this year -- first in spring training with my wrist and this past week with my ribs when I collided on a foul ball with David Ross. It's my job to go get the ball and take the pressure off the catcher, but that play was on the border of what I take and what he can get. It was a tough ball for either one of us to get. It was a good situation in the game to go for it, and he did also. I probably should have chosen a smaller guy to collide with. Right now I'm sore. I'm bruised up a little bit, but I'm fine.
I want you all to know that there is zero panic here. As much as people think there is, we're 30-something games into a 162-game season. If five or six games go bad, who cares -- that's going to happen. We'll be happy that it was just five or six. Other teams are good. There are other good pitchers and other good hitters. You're going to lose some games. You're playing against other big leaguers. You aren't playing college teams. So it's just part of the game.
For myself, I've definitely gotten a lot of advice via Twitter. I try my best not to read into that stuff. It gets frustrating because no one wants to not do well, especially when you're used to doing well. My teammates have helped me. Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] and David [Ortiz] have told me to stay myself, it won't last, and don't fret over it. I haven't gotten down. I know it's tough, but we've all been through it. It's good to hear good players like that say, "We've gone through that exact same thing." It's going to happen and it's going to happen again. David told me in 2009 he started the year pretty tough. He said, "Dude, it doesn't matter. If you have 20-30 bad games, you have 130 to make up for it. The second half of the season is the most important part anyway." It's refreshing to hear that everything is going to be OK. Like I said, I've gotten frustrated sometimes, but I know the player I am. I know I'm going to come out of it.
The only changes I made during all of this? I got a haircut and I grew a beard. But really, I only grew the beard because I got sick of shaving. I'm not superstitious whatsoever. I don't really have a routine. I get up. I have breakfast. I like to have breakfast because it makes me feel good, but it's not the same thing every day. I like to switch it up. I'm at Fenway by 12:30 or 1 p.m. for a night game, just getting my body ready to play every day to make it through a long season.
On Friday night I stuck with a game plan. Not that I didn't know, but I'm starting to really get a grasp of how guys are going to attack me. Now I'm starting to see that. I can have a plan against guys and not just wonder what they're going to do. Over the last month, teams have been back and forth working me in or working me away. Now guys are staying away. So I can really stick to that plan and give them the inner half of the plate.
This has been a tough time for me. Something that helped me was an ESPN piece called "The Only Disability in Life is a Bad Attitude." I loved it. At the time, it was a tough patch for the team. I decided to tweet that and put it out there. Not only is it for me, but I don't know what other people are going through. So maybe that will help somebody else, too.
Looking back over the last month, I should definitely spotlight some of my teammates:
* When Mike Napoli gets going like he did in April, he's an RBI machine. It's pretty unbelievable to watch. He can easily be one of the best run-producers in the game. When he's hot, it's something to see.
* We have David Ortiz back in our lineup. He is a leader on and off the field for us. For a young guy, he helps me out a lot. He keeps my head in the right place. We talk about hitting and everything you can think of. I'm sure by now you've seen the article by Dan Shaughnessy on Ortiz that questioned his hot start to the season. The reaction from all of us in the clubhouse is we don't like to hear anything negative about teammates, especially when it's not true and especially when there was nothing negative to be written; instead, someone just decided to write it. That's really all I can say about it other than that we have his back and we know the person he is.
* Another teammate who got off to a great start is Clay Buchholz. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month for April and another story I'm sure you all heard about is the allegations made by Toronto broadcasters that he was supposedly doctoring the ball when he pitched. In a way, that brought this team even closer together. It showed us that we have each other's backs. No one is cheating around here. It's rosin. They put that on the mound for everyone to use. It's there for that. A lot of guys put that on their arms so they don't have to go back to the actual bag every pitch. The guys with their sweat, it will stay on their arm. They put it there so they don't have to go to the back of the mound every time. They can just touch it and it will dry out their fingers.
* Right after our Toronto trip we went to Texas, and when we arrived inside, that night's starting pitcher's locker was filled with Vaseline and baby oil and items like that. Who was behind that? I want to say it was Demp [Ryan Dempster], since it was his locker. I believe it was him. It was pretty fun. It was a way to make light of the situation.
* Something else that was funny was a friendly home-run competition between Pedey and Vic [Shane Victorino]. Now, I don't know anything about a home-run contest for the season between Pedey and Vic, but what I do know is a few days ago both had zero home runs. Vic hit a homer. Then a couple innings later Pedey hit one. They got to enjoy it for a couple of innings with Pedey being the one without one.
I haven't had a chance to reflect in this diary yet on the tragedy that occurred here in Boston with the bombings. I learned a lot about the city of Boston through all of that. I learned how strong this city is, obviously Boston Strong. It was really nice to see the city come together. Even in the moment of the crisis, there were just random people pulling guardrails off of people to help. A lot of people would run from that and people were running to it -- that really says a lot about the people of this city.
It was nice to be able to go to the hospitals and bring a smile to these people's faces who have been pretty down, and you really can't blame them. I mean, you're losing a leg or an arm or a family member, even. I can't imagine what they are going through. I really can't. I just want to do my part to help out as much as I can.
Clay was on the mound Saturday against the Blue Jays again. Was that extra incentive to want to win? Absolutely, but you know what? We don't need any extra incentive because we want to win every day. I was hoping we'd carry over a little momentum coming off of the day before, with Jon [Lester] throwing so well [he pitched a one-hitter], but we came up a little short. I thought Jon had a real shot at a perfect game. I stretched as far as I could to catch that ball. I got a couple feet from it. It wasn't that close.
While we have the Blue Jays in town this weekend, we aren't the only Boston team playing Toronto. The Bruins are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs. Hopefully the B's can close things out. I know it's a big deal for our city. We'd love to see them win it all.
Sunday is Mother's Day. My mom is a teacher. She is back home and I won't be able to be with her, but she will definitely get a call and there will be something delivered to her. I wish I had the words to express how she has been more than influential in my life. She's a great friend. She has helped me through some tough times. She has a strong mind and is a strong person. The more she can rub off on me, the better and happier my life will be.