Middlebrooks on Youkilis: All class

NEW YORK -- Seven months, three weeks, one day.

That’s how long it has been since third baseman Will Middlebrooks last played for the Red Sox. His right wrist was fractured when he was hit by a pitch by Cleveland’s Esmil Rogers, bringing a premature end to what had been a terrific rookie season.

“I’ve been waiting for this day since Aug. 10," Middlebrooks said. “I’ve been thinking about it every one of those days."

For all the fanfare over Jackie Bradley Jr. making his Opening Day debut at age 22, the 24-year-old Middlebrooks is the youngest third baseman to start an opener since Wade Boggs 30 years ago. Boggs was 24.

Middlebrooks hit .321 this spring with seven doubles, a triple, and a home run, his nine extra-base hits leading the team. His wrist ceased to be an issue early in spring.

On Monday, the man who Middlebrooks replaced at third base, Kevin Youkilis, will be playing third for the Yankees.

“I didn’t play with him long," Middlebrooks said. “For Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] and other guys who played with him for a long time, it must feel pretty weird. But I only played with him a couple months.

“Yeah, it’s going to be different, for a guy who’s known when you say his name, he’s known as a Red Sox, to be in pinstripes. But it’s a business, you see how much of a business this is, and ultimately it comes down to making money for his family," he said.

Middlebrooks was always complimentary of the way Youkilis treated him, and he reiterated his gratitude Sunday.

“He was better than he should have been to me,’’ Middlebrooks said. “He bought me clothes, he bought me food, he told me when I was wrong, when I was right. He did everything for me. He did as much as David [Ortiz] and Pedey did for me, and I was taking his spot.

“He could have very easily turned his back on me. It’s happened before. I was very impressed by how he treated me and how much class he had."