Mentally Tough Middlebrooks Looks To Rebound From Sophomore Slump
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BOSTON (CBS) - Anybody with a television set in the Greater Boston area knew that Will Middlebrooks was struggling at the plate last summer. For the first three months of the 2013 campaign, it seemed like his somebody had dropped a piece of Kryptonite in “The Next Big Thing’s” Red Sock. However the power-hitting righty’s poor performance in the batter’s box was good for something, it gave him a whole new perspective on playing in the Major League.
In his rookie season, Middlebrooks had been the toast of the town. The young prospect had boomed 15 homers and racked up 54 RBIs in only 75 games, all while batting .288. The consensus among Red Sox Nation was that he would have finished the season among the league leaders in power numbers if a broken wrist hadn’t stopped his season in its tracks with 48 games to play. The sky was the limit.
Then, the 2013 season came along and his play at the dish cooled off. Middlebrooks missed time with three different ailments, his average dropped .61 points, he had five fewer RBIs in 94 appearances, and he finished with more strikeouts than games played. By the dog days of summer, many Sox fans had changed their tune, and they were calling into The Sports Hub demanding a trade.
Today in Fort Myers, Middlebrooks sounded like a veteran.
“I learned twice as much (last season) as I did in my rookie year,” Middlebrooks told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller.
Just like every ballplayer, Middlebrooks had endured slumps before, but never on a stage that big, for a period that long. By June, he’d been optioned to the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, and wasn’t brought back up for over a month.
In August he returned to the the big club, and began to show signs of breaking out of his dry spell at the plate. Middlebrooks went on to finish with September being his strongest month of the season, and found solace in finally snapping out of it. The third baseman was quick to commend his clubhouse comrades for the bounce-back, saying that the credit “goes to my teammates, my veterans that stood by my side and helped me through it.”
Throughout his tumultuous tenure at the plate last season, Middlebrooks’ strong defense remained surprisingly unaffected.
“I think it’s important to separate the two,” he stated with an air of mental toughness. “You may go 0-for-4, but you can still make two defensive plays to help your team to help your team win the game.”
(Just ask World Series Champion Stephen Drew about that.)
As the 25-year-old Texan enters his third season, he’s already learned more about the highs and the lows of baseball than a lot of ballplayers with twice his experience.
“I’ve seen both sides of it. I’ve done well, and I’ve done bad,” Middlebrooks said. “I’ve been on a team that didn’t do very well, and I’ve been on a team that’s won a World Series. … I’ve been lucky to see every side.”
Middlebrooks was was happy to report that his health was finally “100 percent” and he seemed pleased with the prospect of a young left side to the Red Sox infield in 2014. When asked about 21-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts, his reply was simple: “He’s going to be a superstar. Mark it down.”
If Middlebrooks learned from his experience in the summer of 2013, and plays to his potential, there could be another superstar playing at third base right beside Bogaerts.
Chris Mason is an Intern at 98.5 The SportsHub