Despite last night’s win, there was a major loss on the field as Will Middlebrooks reportedly broke his wrist after being hit by a pitch by Indians reliever Esmil Rogers. He was taken out of the game and Nick Punto pinch-ran for him, but the damage was most certainly done. This could be an injury that knocks Middlebrooks out for the rest of the year or at least most of it and raises a few questions, but most primarily– who plays third base?
I would say that the main options to play third over the next month or so are Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco, Nick Punto, and recently acquired Danny Valencia. Aviles played plenty of third base last season but has not played there this year and is not a great fielder at third base– recording 8 errors in 46 games there in 2011 and posting a -17.7 UZR there (well below average) over his career. I think that Aviles should remain the starting shortstop of the Red Sox, where he’s put up an 11.6 UZR this year.
Pedro Ciriaco is the next option, and the most intriguing in my mind. Ciriaco has almost never played third base, just 2 games and 6 innings there last year with the Pirates, but he has taken some grounders there over the course of the year. This would give the Red Sox an option to fit both Aviles’ and Ciriaco’s bats in the lineup as he’s done a fantastic job since entering the starting lineup– batting .341 with 1 home run and 11 RBIs so far. I’d say that, if possible, this is the route they should take.
Nick Punto and Danny Valencia, on the other hand, are basically backup plans. Valencia was actually just acquired the other day for exactly this reason, but I’d rather have Ciriaco’s bat in the lineup as neither Punto (.200/.302/.273) or Valencia (.198/.212/.310) has hit their weight this year. Punto does come with better defense than Valencia– a 16.5 UZR at third over his career compared to Valencia’s -1.3 mark– but neither is an every day third baseman. I think the Red Sox should try going with Ciriaco, and if it’s clear he can’t play third base, move Aviles there and play Ciriaco at shortstop as Punto and Valencia should stay backup plans.