Middlebrooks makes first pro start at shortstop

Padres shift infield in effort to boost struggling lineup

Middlebrooks makes first pro start at shortstop

LOS ANGELES -- Looking for a way to get more production out of a lineup that's hit the skids in May, the Padres gave third baseman Will Middlebrooks his first professional start at shortstop Saturday against the Dodgers.

"We'll see how he looks tonight. We need some offense. That's the thing," said Padres manager Bud Black.

Middlebrooks has played two-thirds of an inning at shortstop as a professional, and that came earlier this month as part of a double-switch. Cory Spangenberg, batting .222, got the start at third base.

"We just felt tonight was maybe a time to put him at short … sort of shake up our lineup a little bit," Black said. "Collectively as a group, we like to be a little creative and think a little outside of the box and do some things to maybe pick the club up."

The move wasn't viewed as a dramatic one by any means for Middlebrooks, who has a history playing the position going back to his days at Liberty Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas.

He didn't play the position once in the Minor Leagues coming up with the Red Sox.

"I take ground balls there every day. I play there during the shift and we shift a lot of lefties," Middlebrooks said. "I grew up playing short. It's the matchups today and how it lined up. He asked if I could do it and I said, 'Cool, whatever you need.'"

Middlebrooks -- who is hitting .216 overall but .300 in his last 30 at-bats -- said that he doesn't anticipate any tough adjustment period.

He was drafted as a shortstop by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He didn't begin his professional career until the 2008 season and by then he had been converted to third base.

"I wouldn't say disappointed," Middlebrooks said of being moved. "I was 19 and just happy to be playing pro ball. We had some good shortstops in the organization. It wasn't a big deal."

Middlebrooks hadn't played shortstop at all until May 10 against the D-backs when he moved from third base to shortstop as part of a double-switch. He didn't have a ball hit to him.

"We feel comfortable with his defense. His familiarity with the position was the most critical thing for us, in tonight's game," Black said.

Despite not having logged more than one inning at the position since 2007, Middlebrooks said he wasn't concerned or anxious about the move.

"Catch the ball, throw the ball," Middlebrooks said. "My biggest thing is being where I need to be in terms of cutoffs, relays and bunt plays. Other than that, it should be fine."

The Padres haven't gotten much in the way of offensive production from the two shortstops on the roster -- Alexi Amarista (.186) and Clint Barmes (.231).

After averaging 4.57 runs a game in April, the Padres have averaged 3.85 runs a game in May -- and have been shut out five times. The team has been without first baseman Yonder Alonso and outfielder Wil Myers for 14 and 11 games, respectively, because of injuries.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.