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A very bad break for Middlebrooks

Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks reacted after getting hit by an Esmil Rogers fastball in the ninth inning against the Indians in Cleveland on Aug. 10. He broke a bone in his wrist. (Tony Dejak/AP) Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks reacted after getting hit by an Esmil Rogers fastball in the ninth inning against the Indians in Cleveland on Aug. 10. He broke a bone in his wrist.
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / August 12, 2012
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CLEVELAND — It got you thinking, didn’t it?

If Baltimore can call up its young stud shortstop (Manny Machado) and stick him at third base, why can’t the Red Sox do the same with Xander Bogaerts? General manager Ben Cherington answered that question succinctly in a text message, writing, “Tempting, but unlikely. Machado had quite a bit of time in Double A before the call-up.”

Bogaerts had been in Single A, playing shortstop, and is 4 for 9 with a home run since his promotion to Double A Portland.

Suffice to say, what a horrible blow for the Red Sox to lose rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks. He broke a bone in his wrist when he was struck with an Esmil Rogers fastball late in Friday night’s game. The pitch hit him squarely off the bone. He had no chance.

“I see no silver lining in him not being in uniform today,” said manager Bobby Valentine Saturday. “Usually I try to say that maybe he needed the rest and that it’s good for some reason or another, but I don’t have that statement to make.”

This isn’t quite like 1975, when Vern Ruhle ended rookie Jim Rice’s season in Game 155 with a fastball that broke Rice’s left hand. It didn’t hurt the Red Sox as far as making the World Series, but it hurt them to not have Rice’s powerful bat in the lineup against the Reds.

The Red Sox aren’t in that good of a situation this year, being two games under .500 entering Saturday night’s game. However, if they were to go on a run, Middlebrooks likely would have been a huge part of it, and if the Red Sox are indeed out of it, what a great time it would have been for him to develop.

The only good part is that Middlebrooks can now rest his bothersome hamstring, which had been a source of concern over the past few weeks.

Middlebrooks has shown that Valentine’s evaluation of him was on the money — that the Sox could trade the aging Kevin Youkilis and move Middlebrooks into the third base slot for many years to come. While Youkilis has done well amid nagging injuries in Chicago, Middlebrooks has been better.

The decision was a wise one, one of the best Cherington and Valentine have made. And now comes the downside of it — a season-ending injury in the second week of August.

“He had a terrific run with us,” Valentine said. “He’s a terrific player. I don’t think he’ll be back this year except maybe for a short stint, I don’t know.

“I couldn’t be happier or more proud about what he did developing into the player he is right now and contributing to our team. It’s a damn shame.”

Valentine has seen this before. When he managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, promising young third baseman Toshiaki Imae had his wrist broken twice in the same manner.

There was so much good baseball time left for Middlebrooks. Now the best he can hope for is to recover in six weeks, start to hit in late September, and perhaps go to the instructional league or even winter ball.

In his place, the Red Sox may employ former Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, who was obtained Aug. 5 (during a series against Minnesota at Fenway Park), in a trade for promising 21-year-old outfielder Jeremias Pineda.

Valencia, 27, had been replaced by Trevor Plouffe, the surprise of a dreadful Twins season with 19 home runs. Valentine noticed during the four-game series at Fenway that “there were chances for him to play and he never put a helmet on. There was something they didn’t like.”

When the deal was made, Valencia went to Pawtucket, where he supplanted Andy LaRoche as the third baseman. And now here he is, with a chance to renew his career and make a difference in the quality of the Red Sox season from here on out.

The Middlebrooks-Valencia trade-off doesn’t seem like a good one, but Valencia might be feeling the motivation of a second chance.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Valentine said. “I’m hoping for that. It could be.”

As to whether Valencia takes the third base job permanently, Valentine said, “I have no idea. We’ll figure it out. I have some thoughts but no concrete plans.

“[Pedro] Ciriaco [Saturday night’s starter] has been working out there a lot. It wasn’t a pretty look in two games in spring training but he hadn’t worked out there. Jerry [Royster] has worked him out there enough that he can handle it. I’m totally on board with that.”

Valentine has tried to collect data on Valencia and received a good report from Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, indicating that Valencia was in the right frame of mind and taking the right approach, both at the plate and defensively.

With the Twins, Valencia was hitting .198 with 2 homers and 17 RBIs. He had hit .311 with 7 homers and 40 RBIs in 2010, and then .246 with 15 homers and a team-high 72 RBIs last season.

But his game went south, and he hasn’t found himself again.

Another option for the Sox could be Mike Aviles.

“There’s conversations that will be had with Mike,” said Valentine. “I think he’s done a really fine job at shortstop. Unless there is a thought that would originate from him or from me and then be really well received by him, I don’t think that’s the move to make.”

This reporter even suggested a daring move to third base for Ryan Lavarnway.

“That would be daring,” Valentine said. “I will say this, though: I think he could play the outfield.”

Cherington indicated that the Sox will try the in-house approach and see how it works. If the team gets hot and gets in the wild-card hunt, Cherington may seek a waiver deal for a third baseman.

The Sox are also hoping to get David Ortiz back in the lineup to help make up for the power lost in Middlebrooks. Ortiz may be a go as early as Tuesday in Baltimore if his workouts go well the next couple of days.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Cafardo@Globe.com and Twitter @nickcafardo

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