By BRENDAN McGAIR
PAWTUCKET â€“ From the walk he was able to work after falling behind 0-2 to going the other way for a three-run home run, there was plenty to like regarding Will Middlebrooksâ€™ second rehab game with the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday night.
Playing seven innings, Middlebrooks went 2-for-3 with five RBI in Pawtucketâ€™s come-from-behind 7-4 triumph against Charlotte. On the disabled list with a lower back strain, the third baseman confirmed following the game that he plans to play all nine innings of Thursdayâ€™s contest.
The two at-bats that were the focus of Middlebrooksâ€™ postgame media briefing was the walk he drew in the first inning and the homer he launched over the right-center field fence in the seventh. His first turn of the evening saw Charlotte starter Charles Leesman come inside with a slider that Middlebrooks was tardy on for strike two.
To his credit, Middlebrooks was able to lay off three straight pitches before Leesman came back with a slider with the count full. This time, Middlebrooks wasnâ€™t biting.
â€ś(Leesman) was throwing changeups to (Pawtucket No. 2 batter Drew) Sutton and I thought he was going to go changeups with me too,â€ť said Middlebrooks, who batted third. â€śHe made a good pitch with the slider [on the strike two pitch], but once I saw it, I wasnâ€™t going to bite again.â€ť
Added Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina, â€śThatâ€™s one of the areas of growth Iâ€™ve seen with him and a sign that heâ€™s locked on. When I managed him in Lowell (in 2008), he would be out on the next pitch if he were down 0-2.â€ť
The homer Middlebrooks connected for in the seventh was another encouraging sign for a player thatâ€™s been struggling to go the other way all season. According to foxsports.com, Middlebrooks has struggled with outside pitches, hitting .154 (top tier), .200 (middle) and .273 (bottom). Click here to view more: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/player/will-middlebrooks/hotzone/1332595?q=...
â€śWhen Iâ€™m going well, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m doing. (The count was) 3-1 and was looking for something right over the plate and I got something right down the middle,â€ť said Middlebrooks.
â€śMy memories of him of when heâ€™s going good, heâ€™s hitting the ball to right center,â€ť said DiSarcina. â€śWhen you have the ability to go opposite field like that, itâ€™s a pretty special thing.â€ť