ST. PETERSBURG -- Although Will Middlebrooks is 2-for-10 in the American League Division Series, and is batting .149 in his last 47 at-bats, manager John Farrell stuck with him for Game 4 on Tuesday.
"There's been a tendency to pull off a little bit," Farrell said of Middlebrooks. "Looking back to when he rejoined us in Kansas City, he's gone through some stretches where it's been a pretty level bat path through the zone and there's times where he's looking to do some damage in the swing where he's vacating the outside part of the plate.
The other night in Game 2, he gets a solid base hit to right field. When he stays in the middle of the field, that's when he's at his best, and that's what he continually works on.
Was there any thought to starting top prospect Xander Bogaerts against Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson?
"A little bit," Farrell said. "When Xander faced him back in [September], it was, you know, right-handers that haven't seen right-handed changeups, that's a different animal for a young guy and at least there's a handful of at-bats by Middlebrooks, and at third base, we still feel like Will is the better defender."
Bogaerts struck out in both previous at-bats against Hellickson. Middlebrooks is 1-for-12 against the righty.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.