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03/16/12 6:51 PM ET

Middlebrooks among first Red Sox cuts

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Will Middlebrooks, ranked the Red Sox's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, was among the eight players trimmed from the club's big league camp Friday during the first wave of roster cuts.

"We made some cuts today," manager Bobby Valentine said. "That first wave of guys all basically knew they were here for the experience and that they're going to go to the Minor Leagues to continue their progress. They went with a plan of what they need to do -- to not only return to the group that they were with, but lower the numbers on their back and contribute to some Major League wins."

Middlebrooks, who hit .316 (6-for-19) in nine Grapefruit League games, was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, as was outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin. Left-hander Drake Britton and second baseman Oscar Tejeda were optioned to Double-A Portland. Right-handers Tony Pena Jr., Chorye Spoone and Alex Wilson, as well as outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, were re-assigned to Minor League camp.

Middlebrooks struck out seven times and did not draw a walk.

"Middlebrooks, he came [to camp] in search of some fielding balance, and I think he found it," Valentine said. "He understands now that he doesn't need two hands when he's moving around. He understands his feet positioning to throw, whether he's on the move or kind of stationary. I thought he made great progress. He knows himself better as a hitter. He needs reps."

While there's a difference between optioning a player and re-assigning a player in technicality, the effect is the same: they all head to the Minor League side.

The Sox have 56 players in big league camp, including 36 players from the 40-man roster, two players on 60-day disabled list and 18 non-roster invitees. Valentine said that after Saturday's split-squad day, which requires a lot of players on-hand, there could be more cuts.

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.