Farrell sticking with slumping Iglesias

BOSTON -- His recent struggles at the plate notwithstanding, Jose Iglesias received a ringing endorsement Thursday from manager John Farrell.

"You can't take away the fact of what he did when he was the headline, and now where OK, maybe some things aren't going as they were before, but he's still a very good player," Farrell said. "He's going to be with us."

Farrell, meanwhile, offered a tepid report on how Will Middlebrooks, who began the season as the team's third baseman, is progressing at Triple-A Pawtucket.

"He's had some games where he's swung the bat very well," Farrell said of Middlebrooks, who had his fourth straight two-hit game Thursday and hit his eighth home run. "There's been some games where the inconsistencies emerge. Can't say that it's too different than what we saw here."

Farrell might not have known of Middlebrooks' performance Thursday at the time he met with the media, but in his past 10 games in Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has posted a slash line of .318 AVG/.375 OBP/.523 SLG/.898 OPS -- which would seem to represent progress, at least on paper.

Middlebrooks was optioned to Pawtucket exactly a month ago Thursday.

Iglesias, meanwhile, is batting 9-for-52 (.173, all singles) with no walks in his past 14 games. In that span, his average has dropped from .403 -- a pace he wasn't going to maintain -- to .343 entering Friday.

"He's just not barreling the ball up as we've seen before, whether it's late action with the cutter from [Tampa Bay pitcher David] Price or the sinker, but it looks like right now it's the later action stuff in the zone that's moving off the barrel for him," Farrell said after Boston's 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

"Where he's been able to put enough of the barrel on to find a hole or drop a base hit in, that's not happening for him right now. He's got, I think, good bat-to-ball ability. It's just that the squareness of it right now is not there for him."

On Thursday, Farrell chose to focus on the things Iglesias does well.

"He gives us the ability to do a number of things inside the game offensively," Farrell said. "Defensively speaks for itself; that's going to be well above-average. But offensively, we feel like he's going to make contact, he's going to put the ball in play; he's got some instincts at the plate for a push bunt. We can sacrifice with him.

"There's some things other than just what the sheer batting average indicates, where if the game situation calls for a productive out, that means moving a runner, we've got all that at our disposal."

Earlier in the season, Farrell tried splitting time between three players at two positions -- Middlebrooks, Iglesias and shortstop Stephen Drew. That changed when a slumping Middlebrooks was sent down. The Sox have right-handed hitting Brandon Snyder in reserve at third, with Farrell sliding Iglesias over to short when he wants to sit Drew.

Drew is batting 1-for-12 with five strikeouts since coming off the DL with a hamstring strain. Overall, he is batting .225, .176 against left-handers. Drew also has a drastic home/road split, batting .266 at Fenway and .168 on the road. One scout noted that Fenway is not an ideal park for Drew's swing, since his power is to right and right-center, and isn't made for going the other way.

"If he was playing in Arizona, he'd have 15 home runs," the scout said.

That might be high -- his career high is 21, in 2008 -- but Drew has just two home runs in 159 at-bats at Fenway this season.