In a season with many twists and turns, the Boston Red Sox can be assured that the tide will turn in their favor once two important components of their lineup return from the disabled list. Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino have been vigorously fighting for their chance to return to the Red Sox lineup. Middlebrooks (strained calf) and Victorino (strained hamstring) have been on the disabled list for a good portion of the season, and once they return, they could play a large role in repairing the problems that the Red Sox have been battling throughout the early portion of the season.
The solution that seems to be the least problematic in terms of roster moves will be the return of Middlebrooks at third base. Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list on April 6 with a calf strain, was hitting with more power before being sidelined. With the platoon of Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Roberts failing to carry the weight in Middlebrooks’s absence, Middlebrooks will become a more valuable entity in the Red Sox lineup once he returns from the disabled list. Manager John Farrell hinted that Middlebrooks was moving along quickly, and could possibly return to the lineup in the coming weeks.
Although the Middlebrooks situation will be easy to correct, Victorino’s return from the disabled list will be the most complicated for the Red Sox to handle. It’s not Victorino’s offensive ability that’s causing the problem, but the abundance of outfielders on the Red Sox roster that will cause some issues. With Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting well for the Red Sox, Victorino will probably bump out Daniel Nava as the third outfielder, creating a more well-rounded lineup in the process.
With Middlebrooks and Victorino returning within a few weeks, the Red Sox will have time to gather their bearings, and hit better with runners in scoring position. A recurring problem for the Red Sox, both Middlebrooks and Victorino hit well with RISP, helping the team produce in key situations. Although their recovery won’t be for a little while longer, the Red Sox can start to get the ball rolling, by hitting better in tight situations, and scoring more runs in the process.
In essence, the recoveries of Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino will be essential for the Boston Red Sox if they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2014. If those two players can make an immediate impact in the Red Sox lineup, then they should be a more well-rounded offense that could overcome this early start (5-7 entering Sunday’s game) to return to the playoffs in 2014.