04/19/2013 12:14 AM ET
Slumping Middlebrooks out of starting lineup
Since three-homer game in Toronto, third baseman in 2-for-31 slide
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- When Will Middlebrooks belted three homers on April 7 at Toronto, it looked like he was ready to go on a tear. Instead, the monster game preceded what has been the worst slump of the Red Sox third baseman's young career.
Middlebrooks was out of the lineup for the first time this season for Thursday night's finale of a three-game series in Cleveland. Since hitting that third home run at Rogers Centre, Middlebrooks has just two hits in 31 at-bats.
"I'm just not hitting the ball," Middlebrooks said. "I'm not going to get too down about it. I understand it's part of the game. We're 15 games in -- 60 at-bats, maybe, out of about 600. I'm not too worried about it."
Manager John Farrell didn't seem particularly concerned, either. He was just trying to get Middlebrooks a bit of a mental and physical breather and work in Pedro Ciriaco, who batted ninth and started at third base on Thursday.
"He's played every inning of every game," Farrell said of Middlebrooks. "He's had some games where he's taken a hold of the game and had a huge impact on it and there's been some times where he's pulling off a little bit. This is more of a chance to keep Ciri in the flow of things and give Will a little bit of a blow today."
Has there been anything specific that has led to the slump for Middlebrooks?
"There's been some mixed things," Farrell said. "I think of late, there's been a tendency to kind of fly off or pull off a little bit. When he's right, he's driving the ball to right-center field and we saw that the last game in New York and it carried over into Toronto. Then on the homestand, there were times he stayed in the middle of the field a little bit more. He's been getting pitched to a little bit as well."
Middlebrooks knows that this is not the time to overreact or make any major changes to his approach.
"I'm not overmatched," Middlebrooks said. "I'm not getting beat by pitchers. I'm beating myself. It's just something I've got to get through."
Lackey, Morales slated for Double-A action
CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox will have two pitchers in action on Monday at Double-A Portland.
That is where right-hander John Lackey will start his Minor League rehab and where lefty Franklin Morales will continue his.
Lackey strained his right bicep on April 7 in Toronto. He has been playing catch the last few days and will throw a bullpen session on Friday.
It's possible -- if not likely -- that Lackey will need at least two Minor League starts before pitching for the Red Sox.
"He threw 76 pitches in that first outing, so after two weeks there's going to be about a 10 to 15 percent reduction in total pitches thrown," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We'll hopefully get him four innings and 65 pitches. Most importantly, he's testing it at full speed in a game environment so when he does return to us, there's less question in his mind of what he might experience on the mound."
Morales, out with a lower back strain, hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox this season. He threw a Minor League game for Class A Greenville on Wednesday, throwing three scoreless innings.
The plan the Red Sox have for Morales is to stretch him out as a starter, which could take most of the 30-day maximum he has for the rehab assignment.
"We've got a plan to continue to stretch him out," said Farrell. "Now if there's a change in that plan where we would say, OK, we feel like we're in good shape from a rotation standpoint and we shorten him down to get him back to the bullpen, that's an option. We're still looking to stretch him out as a starter."
Bradley demoted to make room for Big Papi
CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox had said all along that they would only keep Jackie Bradley Jr. on the roster if he was playing almost every day.
Thursday marked the third straight day Bradley was not in the starting lineup, and after the game, Bradley was informed he was being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The Red Sox needed to make a roster move with designatad hitter David Ortiz set to be activated for Friday night's game against the Royals.
The 22-year-old Bradley was in an 0-for-20 slump at the time of his demotion.
He was the story of Spring Training for Boston, hitting .419 with two homers and 10 RBIs while playing solid outfield defense.
The Red Sox promoted Bradley to the Majors earlier than planned because of the opportunity created by Ortiz's injury.
On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Bradley made a spectacular lunging catch to take an extra-base hit away from Robinson Cano.