PAWTUCKET – It was apparent that Will Middlebrooks was not a happy camper.
On the same day that saw the Red Sox bring up Brock Holt to fill the infield void that was created in the wake of Jose Iglesias’ departure, Middlebrooks expressed his displeasure in a loud and boisterous way after striking out to end the third inning of Pawtucket’s 3-0 loss to Norfolk on matinee Wednesday at McCoy Stadium.
Middlebrooks believed that the 3-1 pitch was high, but it was called strike two. He swung and missed on the next pitch, then tossed his bat and helmet. Seconds after voicing his displeasure to home plate umpire Joey Amaral, Middlebrooks was informed that he was done for the day.
"For me, watching him especially over the last day, it's been tough – all the trade rumors, Holt going up,” said Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina. “It can get frustrating, but you can't get thrown out there, especially with a short bench.
“Will's been frustrated a little bit with his at-bats, trying to keep a consistent approach. He's had a couple of tough calls go against him. He said a couple of things that he shouldn't have said and he got ejected,” DiSarcina continued. “He's got to learn how to control the frustrations.”
Speaking about his ejection, Middlebrooks said, “I overreacted. Just got frustrated. You try to have good at-bats and they get taken away from you. I just lost my cool.”
The fact that Holt was the PawSox player chosen reaffirms the belief that Middlebrooks needs additional seasoning in the minors. Holt can bounce between shortstop and third base while Middlebrooks doesn’t boast that type of versatility. Another possible option to fill Iglesias’ shoes was Xander Bogaerts, but the Red Sox seem committed to the idea of letting the 20-year-old finish the season in Pawtucket before bringing him up in September.
Middlebrooks started to show signs that his month with the PawSox was starting to pay off. Just last week, he enjoyed a streak where he collected two hits in four straight games. He’s cooled off since and is in the midst of a 2-for-20 slump that dates back five games.
“Will's still got work to do. He still needs to be more consistent. He still needs to have better at-bats on a daily basis,” DiSarcina said before Wednesday’s game. “He understands why he's here. Sure there's probably some disappointment but you have to get over it and be a professional. And Will is that way.”
“I feel good. It’s not that I’m hitting .330, but I’m hitting a lot of balls hard and getting in decent counts,” said Middlebrooks, whose error in the third inning allowed the Tides to push across all three of the runs it turns out they would need.
Middlebrooks smiled when asked about showing restraint and not following David Ortiz’ lead when it comes to taking a bat to the dugout telephone upon getting run from the game.
“I learned a lesson watching that,” said Middlebrooks. “I figured that I had gotten in enough trouble at that point. I didn’t need to do any more damage.”
Allen Webster turned in a performance Wednesday that was encouraging to say the least. The righty finished with a dozen strikeouts in six innings – the most punchouts by a PawSox starter since Kyle Weiland performed the feat on June 29, 2011.
Like Middlebrooks, Webster committed an error during that fateful third inning for Pawtucket. Just one of the three runs he allowed was earned.
“I field that ground ball in the third, we’re still playing,” said Webster.
Webster said the key for him was his ability to pitch free and easy, something that hasn’t always been the case lately. He was able to lower his ERA from 4.24 to 4.04.
“I felt comfortable all the way around. I felt better today than all year,” said Webster. “I wasn’t thinking about mechanics at all. I was letting the ball work and getting ahead of batters.”
Franklin Morales turned in his second consecutive sharp outing, needing 13 pitches to retire Norfolk in order in the seventh.
“Great pace, his fastball has life, a really nice curveball," DiSarcina said of Morales, who has been sidelined with pectoral issues that have limited his availability since the start of the season. “He's attacking the strike zone with velocity. He goes right after these guys. He looks great. He's healthy.”
While Morales appears on the verge of rejoining Boston’s bullpen, fellow rehabber Alex Wilson (right thumb) hopes to take a major step forward in the coming days. Wilson is scheduled to pitch Thursday and Friday before getting re-evaluated. He allowed one run during a one-inning appearance for the PawSox on Tuesday.
EXTRA BASES: As expected, the PawSox played Wednesday’s game minus outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who hurt his arm while making a throw Tuesday. … Three Norfolk pitchers combined to five-hit Pawtucket, which was shutout for the sixth time. … Alfredo Aceves was scheduled to undergo an MRI Wednesday. Presently on the DL with a left oblique strain, Aceves is expected to head to Fort Myers when the PawSox embark on an eight-game road trip that begins Saturday. … Taking Holt’s place on Pawtucket’s roster is outfielder Ronald Bermudez. … DiSarcina said that reliever Brayan Villarreal – one of the players the Red Sox acquired from the Tigers – was expected to arrive in Pawtucket Wednesday night. The 26-year-old will remain on the disabled list with a thumb injury that limited his availability with Triple-A Toledo. … Pawtucket figures to embrace the new month that begins Thursday after posting a dismal 9-19 record in July. The just-completed month started out with the PawSox in first place by 6½ games. It concluded with DiSarcina & Co. falling out of the top spot in the I.L. North and leading the wild-card picture.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03