Someday in the not-too-distant future, Will Middlebrooks could replace Kevin Youkilis as the Boston Red Sox third baseman. But rather than fiercely protecting his turf, Youkilis could be seen giving Middlebrooks pointers at third base prior to Wednesday’s game between Pawtucket and Rochester at Frontier Field.
“I’ve heard that he’s a great third baseman and a player of the future,” Youkilis told me. “It’s nothing that I worry about because whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If I play for the Boston Red Sox for the rest of my career that’s great. But for me, I just want to have as much fun as I can, try to win as many World Series as possible before I leave, and have no regrets.”
“He easily could not want to have anything to do with me and that’s human nature,” Middlebrooks said. “But he’s a great guy and acts like he’s one of us. It’s been a lot of fun to have him around.”
(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Youkilis spent Tuesday and Wednesday with Pawtucket on a rehab assignment (going 2-for-8 with a home run), and the 22-year-old Middlebrooks paid close attention to the 3-time All-Star.
“I’m not in the lineup today because he’s playing third base and I wasn’t going to take any ground balls,” Middlebrooks said. “But I saw him out there and I said, ‘This is a great opportunity to go be a sponge and ask questions.’ He’s a great guy to talk to because he handles the hot corner pretty well.”
Middlebrooks – currently rated as Boston’s top minor league prospect by Soxprospects.com – has struggled since being promoted from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket on August 19th. Will is batting .150 (6-for-40) with no extra base hits in 12 games with the PawSox.
“Initially, I heard that the biggest jump was from High-A to Double-A, but I would have to say that going from Double-A to Triple-A is a bigger jump,” Middlebrooks said. “You have older pitchers who have played in the big leagues and they don’t miss over the middle of the plate. You don’t see many pitches over the middle of the plate – even in hitter’s counts. You have to learn how to hit that pitch off of the corners.
“I can’t complain – you probably expect me to be frustrated at this point because I’m hitting some balls hard and not getting anything out of it, but right now I’m gauging my games on quality at-bats. If I swing at a good pitch and hit it hard, then I did all that I could do.”
Let the record show that in Kevin Youkilis’s first taste of Triple-A ball in 2003, he batted .165 in 32 games with Pawtucket. There’s a lesson to be learned there too.
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The opening game of the two-game series in Rochester was Zoo Night, as the Red Wings wore special jerseys that were auctioned off to raise money for a new exhibit at the Rochester Zoo.
But after seeing the jerseys, I almost thought it was the Red Wings way of wishing me good luck as I leave the International League for a broadcasting position with the Cincinnati Bengals.
(Photo courtesy of the Rochester Red Wings)
See what I mean?
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Despite a 4-2 loss in Rochester on Wednesday, the PawSox magic number for winning the IL North was reduced to 2 as second-place Lehigh Valley lost to Scranton/WB.
As a result, Pawtucket could clinch its first division title since 2003 as soon as Friday night, as the PawSox open a 4-game homestand at McCoy Stadium.
Friday is PawSox Card Set night as the first 5,000 fans get the PawSox Baseball Card Set. It should be a great night at McCoy.
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