FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Will Middlebrooks' rookie season in the big leagues was one he won't forget.
It began well, with Middlebrooks taking over at third base from Kevin Youkilis, hitting .288 while adding 15 homers and 54 RBI. Then, just as it was getting going, Middlebrooks was struck on the hand by a pitch in early August and missed almost the final two months of 2012.
The team's last-place finish was bad enough, but being sidelined with an injury made it all the more frustrating.
Jokingly pronouncing himself "105 percent" healthy, Middlebrooks wants to put last season -- the injury and the 93 losses -- behind him.
"Everyone who was a part of it is (eager),'' he said, "and I had to sit back and just watch, so I feel like I'm even more (eager) at this point, ready to go. Sitting there in a cast, I couldn't hit, I couldn't throw. I don't know if that made it worse, but in my own mind, it did."
Middlebrooks spent the winter rehabbing from the broken hand, making his off-season a bit different than usual.
"The first month, I was really finishing up my rehab," said Middlebrooks. "But I took BP in New York (in the final series of the season); that was my goal at the end of the year, just so I could go into the off-season knowing I was ready to go, I can get my lifts in, have everything normal and and come to spring training ready to go."
He didn't start swinging until the week before Christmas.
"Everyone who's had a similar injury said 'You're going to go through an awkward stage where you don't really trust it,' " he said. "I'll give it a couple of weeks to get past that and get going."
Middlebrooks can remember a year ago at this time, when he felt a bit overwhelmed being in big league camp.
"Last year," said Middlebrooks, "I was stuck in the corner in here, wondering how long I'd be up here, kind of planning my way back down. Now, I have a job. Obviously, I come in with the mindset of trying to win that job. But it's completely different."
He knows he'll have be more consistent this season to avoid going backward. He played long enough for teams to put together a scouting report on him and make adjustments.
"The last month (of last season)," he said, "things completely changed. Pitchers' approach changed with me. It's just a cat-and-mouse game and you have to change along with it."