TOR@BOS: Middlebrooks charges in for a fine play

BOSTON -- David Ross was charging out, Will Middlebrooks was running in and the Red Sox third baseman only had one move to make: duck.

Less than a week after the two collided near the third-base wall, leaving Middlebrooks with bruised ribs and Ross with a banged-up knee, Middlebrooks didn't want to go through that again.

Ross called him off at the last second, Middlebrooks dropped his body and slid into the ground and Ross threw a liner right over his head to prevent an infield single in the Red Sox's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday.

"As soon as he made the throw, I was like, 'Thank you for not running me over again,'" Middlebrooks said. "I don't know if I could take it again.

"I told him I'm going to call everything if I can get it. If you want it, go ahead and take it and I'll just get out of your way."

While Middlebrooks has yet to look his best at the plate this season, his defense -- aside from a stretch last week -- has shown more than just promise.

He was active all Friday as Jon Lester kept the ball on the ground and Middlebrooks played flawless defense in a one-hit shutout. And Saturday, Middlebrooks was again on the prowl, making back-to-back outs to end the fifth inning and begin the sixth by barehanding ground balls and using his strong arm to nail the baserunner.

"I didn't used to be good at that," said Middlebrooks, who played shortstop in high school. "I had to work on it a lot. I remember early in the Minor Leagues I really had to work on that. I wouldn't come up with it clean. Just because I wasn't used to it -- you don't do that much at shortstop.

"So it's something I've worked on a lot the past few years. I put it into my routine. Early ground balls before batting practice -- I usually do like 10-15 of those."

In 72 games for the Red Sox last season, Middlebrooks made just nine errors in 175 chances for a .949 fielding percentage. He's been close to that this year, with five errors in 87 chances for a .943 percentage.

"There was a three- or four-game stretch where, defensively, he wasn't as sharp as he's been the remainder of the year so far," manager John Farrell said. "But I think given the [lack of] production at the plate, he's been able to separate that and play very well defensively -- with the exception of a couple of games. I think that's the sign of a mature young player."

At the plate, Middlebrooks hit two more doubles Saturday, giving him five in his past three games and nine on the season.

"I'm just slowing things down," he said. "I'm still not where I want to be. I'm still swinging at a few pitches out of the zone."

The hit that could break him out of a long slump: his first double on Saturday was an opposite-field hit off a fastball high and outside.

Middlebrooks took pride in driving balls to right-center field all throughout his Minor League career. This season, he's been pull-heavy, and pitchers are adjusting accordingly, beating him inside while he rolls ground balls to the left side of the infield.

The opposite-field hit could be a sign of things to come.

"For some reason, I've just been pulling off the ball lately," he said. "So I'm just going up there with a simple approach, especially with a guy who's not going to overpower me, who's not going to blow me away, to not worry about getting beat inside. And I know I have time to get inside."

Farrell: Gomes not a platoon player

MIN@BOS: Gomes smacks a grand slam in the first

BOSTON -- Jonny Gomes hasn't started against a right-handed pitcher in almost three weeks, but manager John Farrell said on Saturday that Gomes is not strictly a platoon player.

"But that seems to be where his best production comes," Farrell was quick to add.

Gomes, who was penciled into Saturday's starting lineup against Blue Jays left-handed starter Mark Buehrle, hasn't started against a right-hander since April 23. Daniel Nava continues to get the majority of at-bats from the left-field position.

The switch-hitting Nava has hit .313 with a .925 OPS with three homers and 18 RBIs in 80 at-bats against right-handers, entering Saturday.

"Daniel Nava has done a great job," Farrell said. "I mean, you could make the claim that he's been one of our more productive hitters throughout the entire season. We've always been able to pick some spots for him, and he's been his best when he's been on the left side of the plate."

He's still been productive from the right side, but that's where Gomes makes his paychecks.

Gomes crushed a grand slam on Wednesday night that cleared everything in left field and capped off a five-RBI night. Both of Gomes' homers this season have come against left-handed pitchers.

Entering Saturday, the 32-year-old has hit .282 with an .895 OPS against lefties, while swinging at a .222 clip with a .729 OPS against righties over his career.

"I know one thing, when he's on the field, he's impacting the game -- whether it's been [at] the plate, on the bases or on the field, he's impacting the game," Farrell said.

Marathon bombing victim Abbott throws out first pitch

TOR@BOS: Marathon victim Abbott throws first pitch

BOSTON -- In one of the more emotional ceremonial first-pitches at Fenway Park, Heather Abbott hopped on her only leg from the Red Sox's dugout to the pitcher's mound on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Sox have had several Boston Marathon bombing victims at Fenway over recent weeks, but this one was particularly striking.

Leaning on a pair of crutches, Abbott threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who caught the pitch, signed an autograph and gave her a hug.

Almost one month ago, Abbott's left foot was injured so badly near the finish line that doctors were forced to amputate her leg below the knee.

"The prosthetic is something I'm going to have to get used to," she told reporters at Brigham and Women's Hospital in late April. "I think I have a better chance of living my life the way I used to."

The 38-year-old from Newport, R.I. wants to run and participate in Zumba classes again.

She got a start in that direction by playing a little baseball.