Before too long, the Red Sox will finally be playing with the team that they were expecting entering the season. Mike Napoli returned to the Red Sox lineup on Sunday and made an immediate impact with a home run in his first game back; Felix Doubront made the second start of his rehab assignment yesterday, though his 5.12 ERA may not be a huge boost to the Red Sox’ rotation; and Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks are due to kick off their rehab assignments over the weekend.
A fully healthy Victorino would be an enormous boost to what has been the worst outfield in baseball this season. He hasn’t been great in his first 21 games of the season, slashing just .242/.276/.352, but if he can even approach last season’s performance which saw him hit .294/.351/.451, then he’ll be a great asset.
There are many more questions which surround the present and future of Will Middlebrooks, however. He was off to a slow start even before breaking his finger, as he hit just .197/.305/.324, though the walks have been a welcome addition to Middlebrooks’ game, and the acquisition of Stephen Drew further muddles his situation. It appears that the Red Sox could work out a situation similar to the end of last season, after Xander Bogaerts had been recalled, and have Middlebrooks platoon with Drew with Bogaerts splitting time between shortstop and third base. If the Red Sox want to keep Bogaerts at third on a full-time basis, however, there is no clear place for Middlebrooks on the roster.
Still, less is always more when it comes to injuries. If all goes well, Victorino can slot into the outfield and top of the batting order while sparking what has been an anemic Red Sox lineup and Middlebrooks can find himself in a good roll and get into a groove at the plate. However, incidents of good luck have been few and far between for the 2014 Red Sox so it’s hard to be optimistic even with these two healthy.