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August 18, 2013

Lost in Bogaerts hype is Middlebrooks' potential impact

Fresh from Triple-A, cast-off goes 2 for 3 in Sox victory

BOSTON — Will Middlebrooks returned from Triple-A Pawtucket to Boston with no worry about getting off to a good start statistically.

“It wasn’t about stats for me,” Middlebrooks said. “I could have gone 0 for 3 with a walk — just do something to help us win. That’s what was important to me.”

Most of the talk over the last month has been about how Pawtucket shortstop/third baseman, 20-year-old phenom Xander Bogaerts, can help the Red Sox down the stretch. Everyone is excited about Bogaerts’ potential and rightfully so. He’s incredibly exciting. But let’s not eliminate Middlebrooks from the equation.

If Middlebrooks can provide some of the extra-base production he did last year (14 doubles, 15 homers in his 75 games), then he definitely will give the Red Sox a needed offensive boost in the final month and a half.

So far, Middlebrooks is off to a fine start since returning from his lengthy demotion in Pawtucket. He is 10 for 23 with two doubles. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and RBI yesterday to help the Red Sox win 6-1 over the Yankees here at Fenway Park.

“If this guy come here and do what he’s capable of doing, he’s going to help us a lot,” Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez said. “We saw it last year when he came up here — the difference that he makes.”

Middlebrooks’ dismal start this season deflated everyone’s expectations, which were so lofty after his strong rookie campaign.

Yours truly wrote during spring training that Middlebrooks had the potential to be a middle-of-the-lineup, 30 home run/100 RBI slugger but noted that his free-swinging approach could hinder his progression and lower his batting average.

Plain and simple, expectations were set too high for Middlebrooks. In retrospect, the sample size was rather small from last year when he recorded 267 at-bats and had a high batting average for balls in play, which showed his overall average was bound to drop.

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