MIAMI -- Before Kevin Youkilis returned from the disabled list, Will Middlebrooks was playing every day. Of late, he's been part of a rotation between Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez, with the three players jockeying for two spots in the lineup.
While it's sometimes hard for a young player to deal with unpredictable playing time, Middlebrooks has handled it well. He is hitting .339 over his last 18 games.
"Yeah, you have to be strong-minded," said manager Bobby Valentine. "[Hitting coach Dave Magadan] is so good at the work he gives the guys. I think they really do stay ready -- as ready as you can. He's watching the game, he's into the game. If I saw any elevated frustration level or any total decline in performance, we'd have to make another decision. It doesn't seem like we're there."
Did Valentine have a conversation with Middlebrooks once Youkilis re-entered the mix?
"Kind of -- even though I didn't know how it was going to be," said Valentine. "I told him to 'Fasten his seat belt. Life in the big leagues, you're in the fast lane. You're doing great. I believe in you,' and all that good stuff. Those are just words. Until you experience it, it means nothing."
It has been clear that Middlebrooks can handle anything thrown his way.
"You have to like what you see," Valentine said.