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Leg woes slow Middlebrooks

He calls hamstring tightness a cramp

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 9, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the second time in a week, a tight left hamstring knocked hard-hitting Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks out of action.

Middlebrooks was scratched from the lineup Saturday because of the hamstring and Tuesday night he left in the second inning after driving a double to right field and scoring.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s kind of a cautionary thing, coming out of the game,’’ Middlebrooks said after a 6-4 loss against the Royals. “Hopefully be back in there tomorrow.’’

Middlebrooks said his hamstring had never bothered him before Saturday.

Middlebrooks felt the tightness when he doubled. He then ran awkwardly to third base on a single, prompting trainer Rick Jameyson and manager Bobby Valentine to go on the field.

Middlebrooks stayed in the game and scored on a single. But he did not come out to play third base in the bottom of the inning.

“Couldn’t take a chance,’’ Valentine said.

Middlebrooks said he doesn’t know why the tightness has occurred and said it’s more of a cramp, not an injury.

Middlebrooks is hitting .409 with seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs in four games since being called up to replace Kevin Youkilis on the roster. Middlebrooks is the first player since Enos Slaughter in 1938 to have at least one extra-base hit in each of his first five games in the majors.

Youkilis is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, although it will be longer than that before he returns from a strained lower back.

Once Youkilis does return, the Red Sox could have a difficult decision to make with Middlebrooks.

General manager Ben Cherington has said Youkilis will return to third once he’s cleared to play, having earned the right not to lose his job to injury.

Middlebrooks was a third baseman in high school and has played only third base professionally. Could he play the outfield?

“I don’t know,’’ Valentine said. “It’s been tossed around in some quarters.’’

Cherington said that was unlikely.

“He’s never done it before and I’m not sure that’s something we want to do,’’ he said.

Balk this way

Red Sox starter Daniel Bard committed two balks in the second inning that directly led to the Royals scoring two runs. Both came on pickoff moves, the first on the first-to-third fake and the second when he went to second.

Bard is the first Red Sox pitcher since John Dopson to commit two balks in the same inning. Dopson had a club record four against the Tigers June 13, 1989.

Bard had two balks in 222 2/3 career innings before that inning.

“Really weird,’’ said Bard, who reviewed the balk calls and admitted he was in the wrong.

Ump grumps

Valentine made a trip to the mound in the first inning Monday to tell Felix Doubront to stop staring at umpire Tim Tschida over what the lefthander thought was a missed call.

Barking at umpires has become routine for Red Sox starters, particularly Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

“It has to do with a pattern that I didn’t want to see develop that I saw developing,’’ said Valentine. “I’ve seen it in our whole staff, to be truthful with you, and I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it’s beneficial to anyone.’’

Valentine was asked if he would address the pitching staff about the issue.

“Might,’’ he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I really have to.

“I don’t want it to become a habit; it’s a bad habit. I’ve seen it a few times and last night I saw enough.’’

Valentine is particularly worried about a pitcher like Doubront finding fault in the umpires instead of worrying about his own effort.

“A young guy might start to use it as a crutch, that it’s OK, it was [the umpire’s] fault and I don’t think we can live that way,’’ the manager said.

Ellsbury progresses

Jacoby Ellsbury, who is on the disabled list recovering from a partially dislocated right shoulder, was on the field before the game doing some agility drills. “[The trainers] are really excited about his acceleration,’’ said Valentine. “This is the beginning of the next step in his program where he’s able to swing his arm and make all those movements agility-wise.’’ There is still no timetable on when Ellsbury might return. It was expected to be at least six weeks and as many as eight when he was injured April 13 . . . Before the game, Valentine, Darnell McDonald, Rich Hill, and first base coach Alex Ochoa visited the Negro League Museum, which is a short distance from Kauffman Stadium . . . Nick Punto, who replaced Middlebrooks at third base, was 0 for 2 with a walk. He is hitless in his last 19 at-bats . . . In anticipation of upcoming interleague games, several pitchers took batting practice during the optional session in the afternoon. Aaron Cook, who is on the disabled lost with a lacerated left knee, took a few hacks . . . Adrian Gonzalez turned 30 Tuesday . . . Three pitchers for Single A Greenville - Mickey Pena, Hunter Cervenka, and Tyler Lockwood - combined on a no-hitter against Rome. It was the first no-hitter in Greenville history. Pena went six perfect innings and struck out eight.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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