ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell had an unusual task on Monday. He had to inform one of the hottest hitters in baseball that he was coming out of the lineup.
Will Middlebrooks was activated off the disabled list and is in the lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays. That put Jose Iglesias and his outrageous .446 batting average on the bench.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had that kind of conversation when you’re talking about someone who has performed as well as Jose has,” Farrell said.
Iglesias played third base when Middlebrooks was out. Now he will become a utility player who plays somewhat regularly.
“We’ll do everything we can to get him three days a week on the left side of the infield,” Farrell said. “Everyone is aware of that plan going forward.
“We don’t see Jose as strictly a utility guy. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. In this situation we’re in right now, he’s going to find himself at third; find himself at short [and] possibly at second on a given day.”
Iglesias is riding a 13-game hit streak and has a 1.075 OPS in 22 major league games. While his statistics are somewhat a product of small sample size and an astronomically high batting average on balls in play (.508), Iglesias’ improved patience at the plate and added strength are no fluke.
“Of course you want to play,” Iglesias said. “But, bottom line, I’m happy to be here.”
The arrangement will cut into the playing time of Middlebrooks and shortstop Stephen Drew. Iglesias could sub for Middlebrooks once or twice a week and replace Drew against certain lefthanders.
“That’s out of my control,” Middlebrooks said. “I can’t worry about what’s out of my hands. I can worry about what I can do, my focus and my routine.”
With the Sox in first place, Farrell’s plan stands a better chance of being embraced by those affected.
“First things first here, we want to win ballgames and win a World Series. That’s what it’s about,” Middlebrooks said. “If that means putting the best guy out there that day, that’s what it’s about. I’m here for this team. Obviously you’re here for yourself also. But I’m here for this team and I want to win.”
See the Globe on Tuesday for more on this decision.
• Middlebrooks was 5 of 27 with two home runs and six RBIs in a five-game rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Pawtucket. He was eligible to b activated on Saturday but the Sox held him back for two days to get some extra at-bats.
“I had some good at-bats, worked on some things. I feel a lot better,” said Middlebrooks, who also had been playing with some cracked ribs.
• The Red Sox were not deterred by Franklin Morales’ poor relief outing on Friday and will start the lefthander against the Rays on Wednesday night. Morales faced the Rays six times last season and threw nine shutout innings. He started against them on July 13 innings and allowed two hits over five innings.
• The Red Sox signed second-round draft pick, righthander Teddy Stankewicz, according to Baseball America. The righthander from Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College agreed to a bonus of $1.1 million. MLB’s value for 45th pick was $1,229,600. The Sox can use the difference to assist in signing other players.
• Farrell’s son, Luke, has agreed to terms with the Royals and will report once he is finished with classes at Northwestern. Luke Farrell, a righthanded pitcher, was selected in the sixth round.
• NESN analyst Jerry Remy missed his 10th game because of illness and will not work the entire road trip. His status beyond that is uncertain. Remy wrote on Twitter on May 28 that he was suffering from allergies. On June 5, Remy said he had pneumonia. Nick Cafardo of the Globe filled in on Monday. Rob Bradford of WEEI will be on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dennis Eckersley will handle the four games in Baltimore.
• Mike Napoli, 3 for 21 in the previous six games, was out of the starting lineup.
• Long-time Red Sox batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero underwent spinal surgery and will be away from the team while he recovers. Babson College coach Matt Noone, who fills in when needed, will join the team on a regular basis.
• Two of the best lefthanders in the game, Jon Lester and Matt Moore, met with young cancer patients on the field before the game. Lester has organized similar events in other cities as part of his work with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.