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BOSTON (CBS) – The youth movement is underway for the Boston Red Sox, with third baseman Will Middlebrooks leading the way.
Although he is currently splitting time with veteran Kevin Youkilis at the hot corner, the 23-year-old has been making the most of his chances.
Thursday night, Middlebrooks drove in four runs, including two in the eighth inning with his eighth home run of the season to tie the game at five. Two batters later, Daniel Nava singled in Ryan Kalish to put Boston up for good in the 6-5 win over the Miami Marlins.
“It feels awesome,” Middlebrooks said after the game. “If I can help us win at any point in time, I’m happy.”
“The guy had a good split finger,” he said of Miami’s Edward Mujica, who he took deep for the game-tying blast into the center field bleachers. “I was just really trying to fight him off so I could get a good fastball to hit.”
Middlebrooks is now hitting .316 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 38 games, sharing time with Youkilis since the veteran’s return from the disabled list on May 22. While not playing consistently could be seen as a problem, Middlebrooks says he goes about preparing every day as if he is in the lineup. He understands that at any time he could get the call, much like in Wednesday night’s 15-5 win when he hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth.
And although he is playing so well, he doesn’t mind sitting out when Youkilis gets the nod at third.
“It really hasn’t been bad,” Middlebrooks said of being a part-timer. “I knew that was going to be my role, so I just tried to accept it just play hard when my name is called.”
“It seems like he’s doing just fine like this. He’s keeping sharp,” manager Bobby Valentine said of Middlebrooks after the game. “He’s watching, he’s learning and when he’s in there, he doesn’t look like he’s missing a beat, obviously.”
As Red Sox nation wakes up Friday morning, they can put all the thoughts of a dysfunctional clubhouse to the wayside. The team has won five straight, and are just two games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot.
Plus, their young star-in-the-making — along with other youngsters like Kalish and Nava (although Nava is 29-years-old) — is leading the way. And Middlebrooks seems pretty down to earth about his stardom as well.
“That’s until I do something wrong,” he said of being on top of the world. “I’m just coming here trying to play hard and win.”
The trio of youngsters is giving Red Sox fans a reason to cheer, and a reason for hope. But to them, they are all just doing their job.
“When we were called up here we wanted to gain their trust and let them know we can come through and help them win,” said Middlebrooks. “It’s good to see that happen.”