Sox feature full lineup with Middlebrooks' return
Third baseman back after spending three weeks on DL with calf strain
TORONTO -- Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was activated off the disabled list for Friday's series opener against the Blue Jays, batting out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup.
Middlebrooks, who went 0-for-10 during a three-game rehab stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, appeared in his first Major League game since April 4 against the Brewers. The 25-year-old was sidelined for three weeks with a calf strain. In his first at-bat Friday, he hit an RBI single to center field off Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle, scoring Xander Bogaerts.
"To get him back gives us not only another power bat in the bottom third of our order, but we get back to the full complement of players we anticipated in Spring Training," manager John Farrell said.
With Middlebrooks and right fielder Shane Victorino back, the Red Sox featured a full lineup Friday for the first time this season. Victorino played his first game of the season in Thursday's loss to the Yankees.
"He's a power right-handed bat who was swinging the bat well before his injury," Farrell said of Middlebrooks. "He continues to develop as a defender, is young, athletic and really lengthens out our lineup with the ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark."
Middlebrooks hit .231 with one homer and an .872 OPS in four games before sustaining the calf injury.
Club addresses importance of improving defense
TORONTO -- The Red Sox know they need to tighten things up defensively, which was one of the strengths of their 2013 World Series championship team.
After an uncharacteristic five-error performance in Thursday's series-ending loss to the Yankees, Boston has committed 19 errors, which is tied with Texas for the third-most in the American League.
"Most importantly for us is taking care of the ball," said right fielder and 2013 Gold Glove Award winnerShane Victorino. "I don't know the last time I've ever been a part of a game where five errors were made. If you give teams extra outs, especially like the Yankees, they are going to capitalize.
"We have to play good defense. For me, that's a very important part of the game. We have to protect the ball. That was the one thing we did so well last year, we played great defense. That's to me, the one part of our game that we are struggling with."
The five errors Boston committed against New York was the club's most in a game since April 2001 and the second time in the last three games it has allowed five unearned runs. Victorino said the sloppy defensive play puts added pressure on the pitching staff.
"Not taking care of the ball and giving team extra outs is how you expand innings," he said. "Taking care of the ball is important for minimizing pitch counts."
Last season the Red Sox made the fifth-fewest errors in the AL and advanced defensive metrics painted them as an above-average team. Along with Victorino, second baseman Dustin Pedroia also took home a Gold Glove Award. Additionally, Boston featured strong defenders such as shortstop Stephen Drew and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom are no longer on the team.
This year, meanwhile, advanced metrics line up with traditional statistics and view the Red Sox as a weaker club defensively.
Before Friday's game against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox, who entered the contest sitting in last place in the AL East, held a team meeting and the club's defensive play was addressed.
"Those are the things that were touched on," manager John Farrell said. "No one is proud of the way things unfolded [Thursday] night. That was an ugly game."
• Despite his early-season struggles, left-hander Felix Doubront, who sports a 6.00 ERA after five outings, will make his next scheduled start.
"There's no anticipated changes at this point," Farrell said.
• Changes to the ball-transfer rule, which has been a hot topic of conversation, became effective Friday, and Farrell is glad there is some more clarity surrounding it.
There is no longer a requirement for a player to successfully remove the ball from his glove in order to secure an out.
"We are back to the way I think we all have seen the game unfold," Farrell said. "A catch is a catch. I think it's great that Major League Baseball has shown the flexibility [to change]."
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.