Will Middlebrooks was summoned into John Farrell’s office around noon to hear news that, judging by his body language in recent games, he could sense was coming.
The third baseman had watched five of the past six games from the dugout, sinking in a sea of inconsistency at the plate. Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias was making it impossible for Farrell to keep him out of the lineup.
It had become clear to Farrell that, even though he still envisioned Middlebrooks as an important part of the Red Sox’ future, at present the Sox were a better team with Iglesias in the lineup.
With Farrell acknowledging that Iglesias had earned the job as the team’s everyday third baseman, the Red Sox optioned Middlebrooks to Triple A Pawtucket Tuesday. There is no timetable for how long he will be there, and no performance-based checklist that Middlebrooks can meet to ensure his return.
The only goal is to get Middlebrooks the kind of consistent at-bats that will hopefully allow him to rediscover the swing that made him a .288 hitter a season ago.
“First of all, his skills haven't gone backwards,” Farrell said. “He's still a very talented player. The consistent work will allow him to reproduce the swing that he showed last year and showed throughout the course of spring training, recognizing that this year there were some struggles for him.”
It was just a year ago Monday that the Sox traded Kevin Youkilis to make room at third for Middlebrooks, who has hit .192 with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs this season.
“But this isn't uncommon for a young player, and to take a step back now for the bigger picture, he's finding his way to becoming a major league player, and part of that sometimes takes a step back, and this is exactly what's taking place," said Farrell.
Middlebrooks will be in the PawSox’ lineup Wednesday night against the Toledo Mud Hens.
“This became about Will getting regular at-bats,” Farrell said. “He's an important part of us today as he is going forward, and for him to get back on track, to make an impact with us, he needs everyday at-bats, and that's where he's headed right now.”
The Sox purchased the contract of PawSox third baseman Brandon Snyder as an extra infielder.
A call-up was the last thing on Snyder’s mind after he went 2 for 14 over three games in Toledo.
“I was talking to my wife today about it and I was like, 'Man, that was a really bad one. I'm just happy to be home,’ ” Snyder said.
His phone rang, and when he realized it was PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina, he was bracing for bad news.
“My heart kind of sank,” he said.
Snyder was told he was heading up.
“It was obviously a good feeling,” Snyder said. “God works in mysterious ways. Definitely, this is probably the craziest one so far.”
While middle infielder Brock Holt might have seemed like a candidate, Farrell said he wanted a righthanded bat and someone who had been in this same in-case-of-emergency role before. Having been in this spot before with Texas and Baltimore, Snyder understands his role and knows better than to amplify it.
“It's more or less me trying to fill that little role here or there,” Synder said. “It's not trying to look at the big picture, just trying to fill in when they need it. Obviously, they've got a good thing going, they've got a lot of guys who have big roles, and I'm just trying to fill in when they need somebody."
When Middlebrooks was in Pawtucket earlier this month, he had the locker next to Snyder’s. On a trip Syracuse, they got a chance to talk over lunch.
“I know that he just needs to be able to play every day,” Snyder said. “I think once he does that, he'll be able to prove himself and he'll be back before you know it.”