Will Middlebrooks is making his case for a quick return to Fenway Park.
In the second game of his Triple-A rehab stint, the Red Sox third baseman homered and drove in five runs Wednesday night to help Pawtucket rally for a 7-4 victory over Charlotte at McCoy Stadium.
Slated to play seven innings, Middlebrooks put the PawSox in front with a three-run blast to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh. He connected on a 3-1 pitch from right-handed reliever Jhan Marinez (2-4).
"For Will, I think he gets in trouble when he tries to pull too many pitches," Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina said. "Like any hitter, when he starts to get a little antsy, he starts to pull off the ball. He goes gap to gap and he's so darn strong. Balls that normally are doubles for other hitters carry out to right-center."
Middlebrooks, who's returning from a strained lower back, said he's feeling better. And he agreed with his manager's assessment.
"When I'm going well, that's what I'm doing," Middlebrooks told the Providence Journal. "I got one right down the middle and hit it well."
The 24-year-old is 3-for-5 with a pair of walks in his first two games with the PawSox. He's drawn 20 walks in 441 at-bats with Boston.
"He looked good at the plate. He has his strike zone discipline going right now," DiSarcina said. "He had some good swings and his back was not bothering him. He made some plays at third. The bottom line is he left the game healthy."
With Jose Iglesias hitting .426 and playing stellar defense at third base, the Red Sox are considering letting Middlebrooks extend his Triple-A stay beyond Saturday, the first day he's eligible to come off the disabled list. Middlebrooks has a .642 OPS with Boston, down dramatically from the .834 mark he posted as a rookie last season.
"This isn't going to be based on batting average [at Triple-A]," Red Sox manager John Farrell told MLB.com. "I think it's more important that as he was showing more consistently before the injury, the ability to drive the ball into right-center field. As we've talked many times over, that's when he's at his best. [He just needs] to take his normal, natural approach and repeat it. That's what we're looking for."
Middlebrooks is slated to play nine innings at third base on Thursday.
"He's here until Friday and he'll be re-evaluated Friday after he plays nine innings," DiSarcina said.
Pedro Beato picked up the win (4-1) with 1 1/3 scoreless innings and Anthony Carter struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his eighth save.
Jeremy Hazelbaker also homered for Pawtucket, while Blake Tekotte went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored for the Knights.