May had already been a rough month for Will Middlebrooks, then injury added to insult on Friday night — and now the third baseman finds himself on the disabled list for the second time in what has thus far been a disappointing season for the third baseman.
After missing three weeks with a strained hamstring in April, this time it’s a fractured right index finger for Middlebrooks, who incurred the injury during the first inning of Friday night’s game against the Tigers. Ian Kinsler ripped a line drive right at him, but Middlebrooks was playing in in case of a bunt, and the shot had enough tail on it that it caught Middlebrooks in a bad spot before he could react.
Manager John Farrell said after the game that the finger had swelled to the point it affected his grip on the bat, and though Middlebrooks batted twice already, the ailment factored in to the decision to pinch hit for him in a big spot during the seventh inning. Then Saturday an MRI revealed the severity of the situation.
“It’s a non-displaced fracture,” Farrell said. “He’ll be in a splint for 5-7 days and depending on how he responds to treatment after that that’s when we’ll first look to initiate any baseball activity. So it’s hard to say at this point how long he’ll be down.”
When Middlebrooks was moved to the DL in April, it came on the heels of a hot spring and his first homer of the season — but this time the circumstances are rather different. If there’s a silver lining to the situation it’s the timing, seeing as it shuts him down in the midst of a stretch in which he’s hitting .159 for the month.
He struck out in 16 of the 17 games he played between DL stints, and he doesn’t have an extra-base hit since April 29. That’s particularly worrisome given that power is supposed to be his best asset, yet after homering an average of every 20 plate appearances over his first two seasons, he’s gone deep twice in 82 trips to the batter’s box this season.
To take Middlebrooks’ spot, Brock Holt was called up, and started Saturday night at the hot corner. It was a promotion Holt earned by going 8-for-23 during an opportunity while Middlebrooks was down in April, and by posting a .315/.380/.454 slash line so far at Pawtucket, but the choice was also a product of the Sox remaining unconvinced that prospect Garin Cecchini is defensively ready for the major leagues.
Offensively, Cecchini continues to live up to his billing, batting .306 with a .400 OBP entering Saturday.
*Jackie Bradley Jr. has been slumping lately, too, and so he was out of the Sox lineup on Saturday night, when Grady Sizemore started in center field. But it might’ve been a good thing, since it gave the rookie more time to find a hat and helmet that fit him after unbraiding his corn rows and letting his ‘fro breathe a little bit.
Bradley told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford earlier this week that the change in style was coming, and he followed through Saturday at the prompting of his teammates, who encouraged him to let his hair down — or out — after the outfielder had been braiding it for the past two years.
*Shane Victorino was back in the Sox lineup after missing two straight games with a sore left knee, taking his usual place in right field, and returning to the No. 2 hole in the order. David Ortiz was also in the lineup a night after slipping on his way around a wet first-base bag following a long single Friday night.
*The Tigers took a nine-game road winning streak into Saturday, the club’s longest in 30 years, and behind that run they were an AL-best 12-4 as visitors.
*Tigers starter Rick Porcello took bad career numbers into his latest start against Boston, owning a 1-3 record and 10.42 ERA against the Sox lifetime — but individually the current Sox hadn’t enjoyed a lot of success. Mike Napoli was 4-for-12, but A.J. Pierzynski was 5-for-22 (.227), Grady Sizemore was 3-for-15 (.200), Dustin Pedroia was 2-for-10 (.200), and nobody else had faced him more than seven times.
On the other side, Kinsler (.429), Victor Martinez (.407) and Rajai Davis (.393) had all worn out Sox starter John Lackey historically, each of them with at least 27 plate appearances lifetime.
*The Red Sox honored the recipients of the New Hampshire Red Sox Service Scholarships during a pregame ceremony, awarding students from 40 public high schools with $1,000 college scholarships based on academic performance, financial aid eligibility, and demonstrated community service.
General Manager Ben Cherington — the pride of Meriden, N.H., and a graduate of Lebanon High School — was on the field and the first to greet the scholarship winners behind home plate.