ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is 1-for-12 with eight strikeouts against Jeremy Hellickson, the right-hander starting Game 4 of the American League Division Series for the Tampa Bay Rays.
So, yes, Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday afternoon, he gave brief consideration to sitting Middlebrooks for rookie Xander Bogaerts, whose only appearance to date in the series has been as a pinch runner.
But only briefly. On Sept. 12, Bogaerts batted twice against Hellickson, who like Game 3 starter Alex Cobb features a changeup to right-handed hitters as part of his repertoire, and struck out both times.
"It was a right-handed [batter] that hasn’t seen right-handed changeups," Farrell said. “That’s a different animal for a young guy. At least there’s a handful of at-bats for Middlebrooks, and at third base I still feel Will is a better defender."
Middlebrooks posted a .276/.329/.476/.805 slash line in 41 games since returning to the Sox lineup and has two hits and two walks in the first three games of this series. But he ended the regular season on a down note, batting .138/.153/.259/.411 in his last 15 games, the one bright spot a two-homer, seven-RBI eruption against the Rockies in Denver on Sept. 25.
"Looking back to when he rejoined us in Kansas City, there have been some stretches where it’s been a pretty level bat path through the zone," Farrell said, "and there have been times where he’s looking to do some damage with a swing that negates the outside part of the plate.
"In Game 2 the other night, he got a solid base hit to right field, so when he stays in the middle of the field, that’s when he’s at his best and that’s what we continue to work on."