Things nearly went horrible wrong for the Boston Red Sox in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, a rising star in the organization, took an awkward swing in the first inning and felt a “zinging sensation” in his surgically repaired right wrist. The Red Sox immediately removed Middlebrooks from the game and set up a series of appointments to assess the severity of the injury, which at the time appeared to be in the same area where Middlebrooks broke two bones last August.
From purely a baseball standpoint, it was a somber night for Red Sox fans, but with Thursday afternoon’s update, all of Boston engaged in a collective sigh of relief.
Doctors found no problems with Middlebrooks’ wrist, and the 24-year-old has been cleared to participate in all workouts with no limitations. Though he’ll take Thursday off as a precaution, Middlebrooks will commence with batting practice Friday morning and may play in the team’s Grapefruit League matchup later in the day.
The news could not have been any better for the Red Sox. The club has very little depth at third base, so losing Middlebrooks for any significant length of time would be disastrous. Utility specialist Pedro Ciriaco would be the next in line to play third, and he’s a solid fill-in, but given the makeup of the Red Sox’ infield, Ciriaco lacks the power needed from the third base position.
Middlebrooks was limited to just 75 games last season, but he had 15 homers and 54 RBI in just 267 at-bats. He batted .288 for the season, posted a solid OPS of .835, and played strong defense.
With Thursday’s good news, the Red Sox can come out of the panic mode that last night’s scare put them in and get back to preparing for the 2013 season—a season in which they will rely heavily on Middlebrooks’ bat as a big part of their offensive production.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)