SARASOTA, Fla. — Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks believes he dodged a bullet.
The 24-year-old left Wednesday night’s game against the Orioles after an awkward check swing on an up-and-in fastball from right-hander Chris Tillman sent pain shooting into his the outside of his right wrist, at the base of the hand above the pinkie. His hand slipped off the bat as a result. He feared a recurrence of injury to the same region that wiped out the final nine weeks of his 2012 rookie season due to a fracture suffered on a hit by pitch.
However, when Middlebrooks returned to the Red Sox clubhouse, the news — at least at first glance, pending further evaluation on Thursday in Fort Myers — represented a best-case scenario. While Middlebrooks has yet to get an X-ray or MRI, initial strength tests showed that he had all of the strength in his wrist. And with the pain in the region already subsiding considerably within the first hours after the injury, the third baseman was optimistic that he’d avoided an issue that would represent a threat to his season.
“It’s not as serious as we thought it was. … Everything as of now seems fine,” said a relieved Middlebrooks. “It was more of a scare because it was of the area it was, right where I broke it last year. I just took a swing — obviously it looked pretty awkward, and it felt just as awkward as it looked. It was more precautionary. I probably could have stayed in the game and been fine, but they just wanted to make sure everything was alright.”
That outlook represented a marked contrast to Middlebrooks’ immediate fears as he was walking off the field. He fired his helmet in disgust, concerned that he’d suffered a serious setback.
“I was just frustrated. I’ve been busting my ass to get this thing back to where I can play. In my head, I was worried there might be a setback, and I don’t think there’s going to be,” he said. “It worried me for sure, but I feel fine. … It was just kind of a freak thing that scared everybody, including myself. It’s not serious. Like I said, it was just a scare — it scared me, it scared everyone else, but we’re just making sure. It’s not a big deal.”
Middlebrooks — who acknowledged that he’s felt some tightness but “no real pain” in the wrist after taking batting practice this spring — said that he was hopeful that his inactivity might not be more than a day upon further examination on Thursday, even opining that a best-case scenario was batting practice as soon as Thursday, particularly if the issue was nothing more than scar tissue breaking at the point of last year’s injury.
“That’s what we’re leaning towards. That’s our best bet. But I’m not a doctor. I wish I was so I could tell you more, but that’s what we’re leaning towards,” said Middlebrooks. “Nothing’s broken. Nothing’s torn. It was just kind of a scary, awkward swing and we just wanted to make sure everything was normal.”
While Middlebrooks offered considerable optimism about his injury — to the point where the team was hopeful that a major issue had been avoided — there was nonetheless a sense that any conclusions about Middlebrooks’ health should remain measured until he gets a more thorough exam (including an X-ray and perhaps an MRI) on Thursday.