KANSAS CITY -- Although they were handed a 9-6 loss by the Royals on Friday, the Red Sox took solace in the knowledge that Mike Napoli showed signs of coming out of his recent slump.
Napoli singled to right, launched a booming three-run double to center and reached two other times on a hit-by-pitch and a walk.
"I just got some hits," Napoli said. "I've been doing the same thing, trying to grind through at-bats and put a good [game] together."
For one night, at least, the extra hitting work that Napoli has put in paid dividends.
"I've just been trying to get on top of the ball and be on time," Napoli said. "It's a process and I've been putting in the work."
Manager John Farrell recently moved Napoli from the No. 5 slot to No. 6 in the batting order.
Middlebrooks returns as Sox third baseman
KANSAS CITY -- Will Middlebrooks walked into the Red Sox clubhouse on Saturday afternoon and accepted a series of hugs and handshakes.
"Welcome back," shouted right fielder Shane Victorino.
And with that, Boston had its third baseman for the forseeable future.
Middlebrooks made his first game back a memorable one on Saturday night as he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Boston's 5-3 win over the Royals.
"After the first at-bat, I felt comfortable," Middlebrooks said. "I was seeing the ball well. I'm here to try and help this team win a World Series. That's what it's all about."
After a stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, Middlebrooks was recalled to the Major League club with Brandon Snyder going on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow irritation. Middlebrooks was hitting .269 at Pawtucket with 10 homers and 34 RBIs.
Over his last eight games, Middlebrooks was hitting .333 with two homers and said he had been feeling particularly good at the plate.
The lessons of a demotion to Triple-A have stuck with Middlebrooks.
"You can't take all this for granted, because you can lose it real quick," Middlebrooks said. "I am going to take it day by day, have fun and help this team win games."
Middlebrooks was dealing with a back issue when he was sent down on June 25. He was hitting .192 through 53 games and struggling mentally as well as physically.
"I think it was a little of both," Middlebrooks said. "It feels good just to be able to go out and play and not think about [the back]." Middlebrooks admits his early time at Pawtucket was challenging.
"The first couple of weeks were tough, because I didn't want to be there," he said. "I didn't see the big picture of things. But I got over that. It was a really good foundation for me to get my feet back under me and get back to the basics."
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Middlebrooks will be getting the majority of time at third base. Middlebrooks was in the lineup and hitting ninth on Saturday against the Royals. Brock Holt had started the opening two games of the series at third.
"[Middlebrooks] has put himself in a better position to hit over the last seven to 10 days by getting a little more squared up with his stance," Farrell said. The Red Sox organization chose not to bring up highly touted prospect Xander Bogaerts at this juncture.
"Xander is continuing to improve in the smaller parts of the game in his development path," Farrell said. "Right now, he needs continuing reps. It's a matter of who's the best fit right now for the needs we have to be the everyday third baseman."
Morales activated from DL; Beato optioned
KANSAS CITY - The Red Sox loaded up with more left-handed pitching on Saturday by activating reliever Franklin Morales from the 15-day disabled list and optioning right-handed reliever Pedro Beato to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Morales was 2-0 with a 7.30 ERA in six games before going to the DL with a left pectoral strain on June 23. Beato was 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 games.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Morales could come in handy against left-handed Royals hitters.
"We'll find spots where he has some left-handers to go through," Farrell said. "I can't say it's a clear-cut role right now. But against this lineup, with the number of lefty hitters that they have, I feel like there will be some opportunities."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.