Red Sox's Middlebrooks Sought Fast Start

BOSTON—In his first two professional seasons, Will Middlebrooks had endured slow starts and strong second halves. It had taken him time to catch up to the pace of the league, first with short-season Lowell in 2008 and then with low Class A Greenville in 2009.

And so Middlebrooks made it a goal to get off to a fast start in 2010 and to be named an all-star. He accomplished both, hitting .314/.399/.465 through the first two months at high Class A Salem en route to a place in the Carolina-California League all-star game.

"I think he was playing below the speed of the league a little bit [in 2009] in the South Atlantic League. It just took him time to get comfortable," said Salem manager Kevin Boles during the season. "He's now starting to understand how good he can be, and he's trusting his natural ability. … His overall approach to the game is a lot more aggressive this year than it was last year."

The 22-year-old third baseman did not sustain his hot start, but his year-end numbers (.276/.331/.439) suggested a solid year of development. Middlebrooks, a Texas prep product and sixth-round selection in 2007 who received a $925,000 bonus, also showed a late-season power surge, slamming six homers in July and 12 for the year.

That offered a glimpse of the significant power potential that the Sox believe the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Middlebrooks will show with increasing frequency in games as he matures. While he has a line-drive swing geared toward the middle of the field, the team believes he could show impressive power numbers as he incorporates more loft into his stroke.

"It was good to see some of the power that we've seen a lot in batting practice translate to the game," farm director Mike Hazen said. "As he gets older, a little bit more mature, a little bit better understanding of his swing, hopefully we'll see that more."

Middlebrooks described the year as a significant confidence-builder for him in which he made significant strides at the plate. In particular, he felt that he had improved his ability to attack early-count pitches and drive them.

"I was able to get myself into good hitter's counts or hit my pitch early," Middlebrooks said. "(The power) is there. I've hit balls far. Obviously, it's not as consistent as I would like it to be right now. But that's going to come."  

Sox Yarns

• Ben Mondor, who saved the Pawtucket Red Sox from bankruptcy by purchasing the club in 1977, passed away at the age of 85. He had been the owner of the Triple-A PawSox for 33 years. 

• Jose Iglesias will play some third base in the Arizona Fall League in deference to the requirement that he play multiple positions, but the Sox still have no plans to move him from shortstop going forward.