A week after bruising his ribcage in a collision with teammate David Ross, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks admitted yesterday he still is having occasional difficulty catching his breath and sleeping on his right side.

Strangely, though, the injury appears to have cured the worst slump of his life.

Mired in a six-week funk that left his batting average at .200 and his on-base percentage at .231, Middlebrooks helped fuel last night’s 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays with a double and a homer to the opposite field, the best signs yet that he may finally be feeling better, at least at the plate.

“Whether it coincides with the collision, and I mean that with all sincerity, he’s not pulling off the ball as much,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s staying to the middle of the field, and that’s when his power really shows and the bat stays in the zone longer.”

Middlebrooks chuckled at the notion that his sore ribs actually may have helped his swing. If anything, he said he probably returned too quickly, missing only one game last week. But upon his return, he went 5-for-12 with five doubles over the next three games.

Another positive sign came Tuesday night, when he waged a 10-pitch at-bat against tough Rays reliever Jake McGee. And although Middlebrooks wound up grounding out, he took solace that he was able to foul off four tough pitches.

“I was swinging a little hard and I didn’t realize it,” Middlebrooks said. “Just trying to do a little too much. With that bruise, it kind of slowed me down. I think it helped.”

Middlebrooks also has been trying to draw on his previous experience. In 2008, he batted .187 in his first month with short-season Single-A Lowell, and two years later, he got off to a .133 start at Single-A Greenville.