BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Red Sox had a victory before they even took the field for batting practice on Thursday morning.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was given a clean bill of health after a scare on Wednesday night, when he had to leave the game with discomfort in the right wrist he fractured last season.
"I'm fine," said Middlebrooks. "Same as last night. [I was] just scared. It scared me. I felt just an awkward feeling, awkward movement of the wrist. It was the initial zing of pain and that was it. I expect to be fine. I'm fine right now. I could have swung a bat last night."
Not only was Middlebrooks pain-free, but he is expected to return to the lineup as soon as Friday night, when the Red Sox host the Pirates at JetBlue Park.
"He'll be day to day until he takes BP, which should be tomorrow," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Our plan right now is that he would be able to go tomorrow, but we'll just be sure he comes through BP without any issue."
After Farrell's morning update, Middlebrooks actually did take batting practice back in Fort Myers, and he reported no ill effects.
Middlebrooks received an examination as soon as he arrived at the ballpark on Thursday.
"His exam this morning was benign," said Farrell. "He didn't feel any discomfort when he was put through a battery of tests and he's actually been cleared for all baseball activities, but I'm sure he's going to take the day to just let it rest. But given the way he came out after the swing, it was obviously very good news this morning."
Not just good news for Middlebrooks, but also for the Red Sox. Third base is not a position of strength in the organization.
If something serious happened to Middlebrooks, Boston's only current alternatives are utility players such as Pedro Ciriaco, Brock Holt or Drew Sutton. That is, unless the club took the bold step of rushing top prospect Xander Bogaerts to the Majors.
When Middlebrooks broke his wrist last August, the Red Sox really had nowhere to go. And his absence was just one of many reasons the team struggled mightily down the stretch.
"Well, when you get into the depth behind Will, we're looking at a more utility-like guys rather than someone who would profile at that position long term," said Farrell. "We're confident with the people in camp. There's no additions in camp that are being contemplated or imminent. That's kind of where we are."
If Middlebrooks can stay healthy this season, he could have a big impact on the team's hopes at contending for a postseason spot.
"We're talking about a guy who is just in the stages of what looks to be a very productive career," said Farrell. "A 24-year-old guy who can hit with power, hit with average. He certainly lengthens out our lineup with a right-handed power bat. We're counting on him for upward of 150 games. Barring injury, that's the type of player he is."
All spring, Middlebrooks has maintained that his wrist is fine, and he feels the same strength in his hand as he did before the injury was sustained in Cleveland in August. He still feels that way, even after Wednesday's scare.
"That was my third game, and I hadn't check-swung," Middlebrooks said. "Normal swings felt fine. Normal check swings will probably be fine, too. I just got caught in between and it was just awkward all around."
Middlebrooks can understand why there might have been some panic in Red Sox Nation.
"I saw it this morning [on video]," Middlebrooks said. "It didn't look good. It just freaked me out. It was just a weird feeling. I didn't want to take a chance with it because of the history of that wrist."
The Red Sox were equally mindful, which is why Thursday's morning report was so encouraging.
"Well, at the time of the swing, it wasn't real encouraging," Farrell said. "Given what he came through with the fracture a year ago, I can understand that he was a little tentative and probably a little scared. Fortunately this morning things checked out OK.
"He was checked out by a specialist today, a hand specialist. Based on his clinical exam, [the specialist] didn't feel like X-rays or MRI were warranted. There was nothing structural that was revealed in the physical testing he went through. Had there been any kind of discomfort, we certainly would have taken him for imaging but at this point, that wasn't recommended by the doctors."
Now, Middlebrooks can just get back to the process of preparing for his sophomore season in the Majors.