PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Red Sox third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks knew a strong start to his season at Triple-A Pawtucket would be important.
So, he did not waste any time.
Middlebrooks, 23, started at third base for the PawSox on Thursday night and went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles as Pawtucket defeated the Buffalo Bisons (New York Mets) 4-2 on opening night at McCoy Stadium.
“It felt really good,” Middlebrooks said. “I came in here with a sense of urgency, and I didn’t want to wait to get things going. I wanted to really focus as hard as I could and see if I could get some good pitches to hit.”
His swing was fluid and smooth, and he was driving the ball to the right side, which means he’s hitting the ball well.
“It’s really good to get off to a good start because it sets the tone for your season,” Middlebrooks said. “I just want to get off on the right foot.”
At the end of spring, he met with GM Ben Cherington and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. Middlebrooks was told to work on his consistency at Triple-A and good things would happen.
“They told me they trusted me and that I did everything they wanted me to do during spring,” Middlebrooks said. “It felt good to come out of [camp] and I had a good taste in my mouth, and I’m ready to start off on the right foot.”
PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler was thrilled to see his starting third baseman have a strong night.
“It’s a great momentum builder for him,” Beyeler said. “I know when he came up here last year he was a little tired, and that tends to happen when guys have good seasons like that. He got worn down, and then he came up here to a new league late in the season. Then he went out to the fall league and played really well out there, and the stuff we saw in the fall league, we saw tonight.
“He’s a dangerous guy and he uses the whole field to hit, and it was great to see him get off to a good start.”
Middlebrooks made tremendous strides and honed his skills in 2011. He began the season at Double-A Portland, where he hit .302 in 96 games with 25 doubles, one triple, 18 homers and 80 RBIs. He was promoted to Pawtucket on Aug. 19.
He struggled a bit at the Triple-A level and finished the season with a .161 average (9-for-56), including two homers and eight RBIs in only 16 games for the PawSox. Overall at the minor league level in 2011, he hit .285 with 23 homers and 94 RBIs.
Following the season, he hit .250 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 13 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League and earned AFL Rising Star honors. The Red Sox added him to the 40-man roster in November, and he participated in his first big league camp this spring.
Starting the 2012 season with the PawSox, Middlebrooks can taste the big leagues.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “They always say, ‘Don’t think about it,’ but you’re going to think about it because you’re right here. We come here to work every day so we can get up to that level.”