After the first homestand of the season, the Boston Red Sox are what we thought they would be. They’re a team that can hit for power, and a team that has real questions surrounding its starting rotation.

While General Manager Ben Cherington continues to weigh the price of a new starting pitcher, the newest members of the Red Sox just wrapped up their first taste of life at Fenway. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is hitting .289 and showing us he’s a hard-nosed player.

Not sure if Red Sox fans expected this from Sandoval. The “Kung Fu Panda,” one of the most beloved members of three World Series championship teams in San Francisco, is known as a sort of mini-David Ortiz – a player who is well liked by teammates and opponents alike. A guy who gets hits and gets along with everyone.

Then we watched him take out one second baseman after another, breaking up potential double plays and keeping innings alive. He did it last Tuesday night against the Nationals, extending an inning that led to two runs for the Sox.

Then he did it Friday night against the Orioles. Baltimore didn’t like it one bit, and Ubaldo Jimenez was later ejected for hitting Sandoval with a pitch in the fourth inning.

This Panda comes with a little more edge than many Sox fans expected.

“Good clean slide,” Sandoval told reporters. “I was sliding through the base. Nothing wrong with it.”

Red Sox Manager John Farrell was surprised to see Jiminez ejected without warning but quickly defended his player: “It was a good, clean, hard slide to break up a double play.”

You can put the emphasis on hard, even though Farrell didn’t. It’s great to see Sandoval play that way. Sox fans criticized his weight when he arrived in spring training, but it’s clear Sandoval takes the game seriously.

He’s a strong fielder and works hard at hitting, even if his power has been slow to start this season. That’s not entirely unexpected – last season with the Giants, Sandoval batted .177 with two home runs in April before heating up in May (.312, six homers).

Sandoval got his first extra-base hit (a double) for Boston on Sunday, but wasn’t boasting about it after the game. “We lost the game,” he said. “My stats don’t matter.”

Boston fans love that kind of answer. They also love a guy who performs well on the biggest stages. He has a .261 lifetime average in division series play, a .333 average in Championship Series play and a .426 average in the World Series.

The bigger the game, the better the big man plays.

And now we’re seeing how hard he plays. As we start to form early opinions about the Red Sox, it’s pretty clear that the new third baseman is working hard to win us over.

Tom Caron is the studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.