Sports

Will Middlebrooks gets a day off

CLEVELAND — Will Middlebrooks doubled and hit three no-doubt home runs against the Blue Jays on April 7. In the eight games that followed, the Red Sox third baseman was 2 for 30 with one RBI.

Manager John Farrell decided on Thursday to give Middlebrooks a day off after watching him go 0 for 5 with two strikeouts on Wednesday. Pedro Ciriaco started at third base.

“He’s played every inning of every game. He’s had some games where he’s taken ahold of the game and had a huge impact and there’s been some times where he’s pulled off a little bit of times,” Farrell said.

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The 24-year-old Middlebrooks said several times that he wasn’t concerned about the slump.

“I’m not going to get too down about it. It’s part of the game,” he said. “We’re 15 games in, 60 at-bats maybe out of about 600. I’m not too worried about it.

“I’m not going to change my routine; I’m not going to change my approach. I’m not going to change my bats.”

Middlebrooks has walked only three times in 59 plate appearances while striking out 18 times. Plate discipline is clearly an issue.

“He’s an aggressive hitter, we know that. I don’t want to say it’s as deep as pitch selection. I just think at times he might get a little overaggressive on occasion,” Farrell said.

Middlebrooks said he has fouled off some good pitches. He also thinks he has been making it harder on himself by passing up pitches on which he normally makes good contact, particularly when leading off innings.

“I’m not overmatched. I’m not getting beat by the pitchers, I’m beating myself,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s just something I’ve got to get through. It won’t be a problem.”

Said Farrell, “When he’s right, he’s driving the ball to right-center field. We saw that the last game in New York and it carried over to Toronto. Then on the homestand there were times where he stayed in the middle of the field a little bit more.”

By Thursday, Middlebrooks agreed with the idea of a day off.

“Of course, I want to play. But I can see where this could help. Just kind of clear my head,” he said. “Team is doing great, team is picking me up, pitching is picking me up. I told the guys I would go out there and play defense. They have my back.”

Bradley headed down

When David Ortiz is activated off the disabled list on Friday, rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. will be optioned to Triple A Pawtucket and play center field there, assistant general manager Mike Hazen said.

Bradley will play occasionally in the corners in case the Red Sox have a need at those positions later in the season.

Bradley was 3 for 31 with 12 strikeouts. But he also drew six walks, scored five runs, and drove in three runs. Bradley got on base eight times in the first four games , contributing significantly to three victories.

Progress for Lackey

John Lackey walked off the mound in Toronto on April 6 clutching his right arm. On Monday, he’s scheduled to throw four innings for Double A Portland.

What first looked like a serious injury proved to be a strained biceps, and Lackey is ready to get back on the mound. He will throw in the bullpen before Friday’s game at Fenway Park and then start his rehabilitation assignment.

Farrell said the Sox aren’t certain yet if Lackey will need multiple minor league games. It will depend on how he feels.

“Most importantly is that he’s testing it at full speed in a game environment so when he does return to us there’s less question in his mind,” Farrell said.

Lefthander Franklin Morales will follow Lackey to the mound on Monday. He pitched three innings for Single A Greenville on Wednesday to start his rehab assignment. Morales is returning from a spring training back injury.

Joel Hanrahan felt some soreness in his right hamstring when he pitched from flat ground on Thursday. So he will not get back on the mound for at least another few days.

“While he’s making progress, that hasn’t cleared up 100 percent,” Farrell said.

Right against lefties

With Morales and Craig Breslow on the DL, Andrew Miller is the only lefthander in the bullpen. But lefthanded batters are 4 of 32 (.125) against Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara . . . Dustin Pedroia’s walk in the third inning Thursday night extended his streak of reaching base safely to 25 games, dating to Sept. 21 . . . It was 81 degrees at first pitch, a whopping 35 degrees warmer than on Wednesday.

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