Notes: Middlebrooks' surge, Yanks' chances

BOSTON -- A few notes prior to Friday night's A-Rod lovefest:

--Sox manager John Farrell said that Will Middlebrooks could emerge as a candidate for the No. 5 lineup hole occupied until recently by Mike Napoli.

"That possibility certainly exists," Farrell said. "He's going to tell us when he's ready. As we've seen of late, the bottom half of the lineup has got some [flexibility]. ... We've fluctuated a little bit trying to ride a little bit more of the hot hand at times and when the matchups might present themselves to be an advantage. So, that could happen at times.” Middlebrooks has batted .389 (7-for-18) since being recalled from Pawtucket.

"He looks more relaxed in the box," Farrell said. "That's probably the biggest thing that stands out right now. Prior to him being optioned back, I think there was a tendency to maybe try to make up for some previous at-bats. That's not the case now, he's playing with a little bit more of a free mind. He's taking a number of good passes while at the plate and he gives us the potential to lengthen out the lineup with a power bat in the bottom part of the order. He just looks more understanding of not only what his checkpoints are, but how can he address a certain pitch, particularly on the outer part of the plate.”

--Farrell said he has not decided how much David Ortiz will play first base on the West Coast trip to play two National League opponents, the Dodgers and Giants, but acknowledged that Napoli's slump could factor into that decision.

--The Yankees are 8 ½ out of the division lead, 6 games back in the wild-card race, in which five teams rank ahead of them:

"We believe we have a chance to get back in it," manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yanks have 42 games left, the Sox 39.

--Farrell had little interest in interjecting himself into the should-he-be-playing A-Rod debate:

"I think we're all certainly well aware of the situation he's in," Farrell said, "and it clearly is within his rights to appeal. That's really all I've got to say about it. He's taking advantage of the process that is clearly his right so we'll see how that all plays out."

--Farrell also limited his remarks on the news that the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy had been charged in the murder of a 27-year-old mother, Jennifer Martel.

"It's an ongoing investigation," he said. "Our thoughts, our prayers and our sympathy is certainly with the Martel family. Other than that, that's kind of where it stays."