Slumping Middlebrooks out of starting lineup

Since three-homer game in Toronto, third baseman in 2-for-31 slide

Slumping Middlebrooks out of starting lineup

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."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.