Crouched on the infield grass, Will Middlebrooks knew the predicament was tricky.
Ian Kinsler was at the plate, with one out in the first inning Friday night and Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hitting behind him. Kinsler’s priority was to get on base any way possible.
That’s why Middlebrooks was on the grass to begin with.
If he had played back, Kinsler would’ve taken it as an open invitation to drop a bunt down the third base line.
“I was just trying to take that away,” Middlebrooks said.
But it left Middlebrooks in the uncomfortable spot of having to make a play on a hot shot if Kinsler sent one his way.
That’s exactly what Middlebrooks got.
“I was playing him pretty close and he hit a screamer at me,” Middlebrooks said. “It had some topspin.”
Almost as a reflex, Middlebrooks tried to grab the ball with two hands.
“I just kind of went with both hands for some reason,” Middlebrooks said. “Tried to catch it, it went under my glove.”
When he initially felt the sting in his right index finger, Middlebrooks thought nothing of it.
“I thought it just bruised me, jammed me pretty good,” Middlebrooks said. “Just kept swelling, kept swelling throughout the game.”
Seven innings and two at-bats later, Middlebrooks couldn’t even get his batting gloves on. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh.
After getting examined, Middlebrooks learned that he had fractured the finger. For the second time this season, the third baseman has been placed on the disabled list. He missed 19 games in April with a right calf strain. After missing stretches of last season with a string of nagging injuries, Middlebrooks wondered when his luck would turn.
“I’m waiting,” Middlebrooks said. “I think I’m pretty due . . . It’s been a long couple years. I’ve got to hang in there and things will turn around — hopefully. And just keep grinding it out.”
With the fingered gnarled and bent, Middlebrooks will wear a splint for 5-7 days, manager John Farrell said.
“And depending on how he responds to treatment after that, that’s when we’ll first look to initiate any baseball activity,” Farrell said. “So it’s hard to say at this point how long he’ll be down.”
Kinsler ended up scoring the game’s only run in the Red Sox’ loss to Detroit, coming around on Torii Hunter’s single.
Farrell said Middlebrooks was in a tough spot with Kinsler’s speed and bunting ability.
“It’s a reaction play,” Farrell said. “Early in the count like that, with a guy like Kinsler against a lefthander [Jon Lester], the bunt is always a possibility if you’re playing back deep. So you guard against it until there’s at least a strike or two in the count.
“Unfortunately, it was a ball that was hooking just enough that got away from the glove and it hits him in a bad spot. The swelling continued to increase throughout the course of the game and the MRI today revealed that the fracture was there.”
With Middlebrooks on the DL, the Sox called up Brock Holt for his second stint in Boston. He had been hitting .315 in Pawtucket.
“Brock was put on call last night until results were confirmed,” Farrell said. “They were traveling back in. Once they got in, he got a couple hours of sleep and drove up here today.”
Farrell said after discussing it with staff in Pawtucket, the team still wasn’t ready to bring up one of its brightest prospects, Garin Cecchini, even though he’s hitting .306 for the PawSox.
“The recommendation was made that defense was still developing on his part,” Farrell said.
For Middlebrooks, whose average dropped to .197 after Friday night’s game, he finds himself pushing through another untimely setback.
“Injuries are out of the control of anyone,” Farrell said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but we can’t run him out there with a fractured finger. It was affecting the grip on the bat even in the following ABs after he took the liner. “
Breather for Bradley
When center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. confessed that he felt “lost” at the plate after going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against the Tigers on Friday, the words caught the attention of Farrell, who sensed that Bradley might need a day to decompress.
He left Bradley out of the lineup Saturday, going with Grady Sizemore in center for the first time since May 3.
“I saw the comment that he made,” Farrell said. “I think anytime a player thinks that candidly about what he’s feeling, I think there’s an opportunity to give him a little bit of a breather and take a game in and kind of just catch his breath, so to speak.
“It’s not uncommon for players to go through the peaks and valleys we’ve seen, but this is someone that in my view, I felt like throughout April was really making some strides with his approach and yet in this month, things have kind of turned a little bit. We’re not down on his abilities, but I think we’ve got to recognize when some of that confidence gets a little shallow, we’ve got to give it a chance to rebuild it.”
After hitting .244 in April, Bradley’s average has dived to .200 after going 6 for 47 with 17 strikeouts in 14 games in May. He’s been relentlessly optimistic about pushing through his struggles and has played stellar defense even while he’s struggled at the plate.
“He’s been going at it every day and he’s done a very good job defensively,” Farrell said. “Offensively, there’s been times where he’s been challenged. We’re well aware of the swing and miss that’s shown up here of late. So a chance to regroup here a little bit and see where we are tomorrow.”
When Xander Bogaerts thinks about the rough patch he’s trudging through after a hot April, it’s more about the pitches he’s missed.
Bogaerts said he’s gotten pitches in his hot zones, but hasn’t jumped on the chance to drive them.
He entered Saturday hitting .208 in May with 15 strikeouts, but has continued to battle each at-bat, including a 14-pitch at-bat against the Twins. He homered in the fifth for the Sox’ lone run.
“You see the foul balls,” Farrell said. “Whether it’s a 14-pitch at-bat in Minnesota or some pitches [Friday] night where he’s missing pitches on the outside part of the plate, I can’t say that he’s looked to pull the ball a little bit more or maybe some of the plate coverage away isn’t as consistent.”
Shane Victorino returned to the lineup after sitting out two games with left knee soreness. Victorino came into the clubhouse Friday saying he felt good enough to play, but Farrell chose to be cautious.
“Even [Friday] night after the MRI, he came back in and he felt like he was, in his view, was capable, but we wanted to give it another day of rest,” Farrell said. “He is fitted for a brace. He’ll be wearing that.”
Victorino went 0 for 4 and was involved in a batter interference call in the eighth inning when he and Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello intersected after Victorino sent a nubber down the first base line.
“To me, my view was he was already past the ball,” Farrell said. “Still, [plate umpire Clint Fagan] felt that he interfered with the play and called him out.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.