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Middlebrooks no longer the new kid on the block

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BOSTON -- Even at the end of last season, Will Middlebrooks could see the adjustments pitchers were making. As he racked up at-bats, other teams gathered scouting reports.

Opponents will only have a better idea of the Red Sox's second-year third baseman in 2013, and the 24-year-old has checked in with Dustin Pedroia on how to avoid a sophomore slump.

"I've talked to Pedey a few times, and the biggest thing is to stay hungry and stay in the video room," Middlebrooks said at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon. "Pitchers know you now. Pitchers know how to attack you. You have to watch how those guys went about trying to get you out toward the end of the year, because that's when they got a feel for what you were trying to do."

Middlebrooks has been working out back home in the Lone Star State, and he said his offseason has been pretty normal following rehab on the fractured right wrist he suffered courtesy of a fastball in August. He's planning to go to Fort Myers, Fla., for Spring Training a week into February.

"I've started hitting already off some guys throwing BP, and it feels normal, so I'm excited to see how it goes against live pitching," Middlebrooks said.

There's so much around the Red Sox that's been turned on its ear in the span of a year, and that includes Middlebrooks' outlook coming into Spring Training. The expectations around him are completely different. He was in Major League camp to learn and have a taste in 2012, not to break camp as the starter.

Middlebrooks is one of the better-known names on the roster, and he's not old enough yet to buy alcohol at TD Garden with an out-of-state license (you have to be at least 25 years old). Now, he's the one telling the new faces about Fenway.

"It's completely different," Middlebrooks said. "Last year, I came in, and I knew I wasn't going to make the team. They had a set roster. I was there to learn, to learn from [Kevin Youkilis] and guys like that. Coming in this year, it being my position, it's completely different -- and it's a confidence-builder when you come in knowing what to expect and knowing what I need to do to get better -- and I'll just keep learning from the guys I'm surrounded by.

"I've already spoken with guys like Joel Hanrahan and [Mike] Napoli. I work out with them back home in Dallas. They're like, 'What's it like to play there?' Napoli has obviously played here and played really well here, so he loves it here anyway, but Joel had never been here until he came here to visit. He just asked about the atmosphere and how much different it was. In that sense, I can help out, but as far as experience goes, those guys are still helping me."

How have things changed? Well, Middlebrooks said, "you're not even going to recognize" John Lackey because "he's in the best shape I've ever seen him in." As a group, Middlebrooks said the Sox are raring to go.

"Everyone I've talked to is beyond ready to get started," Middlebrooks said. " It's hard for me to speak on this, because I wasn't here when the team was winning World Series and doing well. I was watching on TV just like you guys. But all those guys who have been there and have won, that's not a normal year for those guys, so they're ready to get back and prove themselves."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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