BOSTON Jose Iglesias has been one of the brightest lights on the Red Sox horizon since he signed as an international free agent in September 2009, just over a year after defecting from Cuba while playing in the 2008 World Junior Championships in Canada. Because the hopes and expectations for the slick-fielding shortstop have been so high since then, its easy to forget hes still just 22 years old.
Well, I think so, but its easy to get caught up in the performance and everybody does that, said Arnie Beyeler, who has been Iglesias manager for the past three seasons, in 2010 with Double-A Portland and the last two seasons with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Hes still a guy thats going through development. Theres a fine line between when guys are still prospects and when theyre big leaguers. Then theres no such thing as prospects anymore because you have to produce up here. Thats part of the deal and the pressures that come with being in the big leagues and the day-in, day-out grind. They either figure it out or they dont, and in four or five years or so, well see.
Like Iglesias, Beyeler is with the major league team now, called up to help after the PawSox International League championship season. Iglesias, who made his big league debut last year, was called up earlier this season but did not get into a game before being sent back to Pawtucket. He was called up again on Aug. 25.
Its fun to be here, Iglesias said. Its fun to be here with these guys, try to help them win some ball games.
While his superior defensive skills are obvious most recently Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, when he made a nifty play on Manny Machados grounder to get a force out at second base -- he has struggled at the plate, hitting just .133, going 6-for-45 with a home run, an RBI, five runs scored, four walks and 10 strikeouts. Three of his six hits came Thursday night in Tampa Bay, when he also hit his first career home run.
I dont care, said one major league scout. Id have him in the lineup every day. With the kinds of plays he can make, Im not going to worry about what he hits.
Iglesias is not concerned about his offensive struggles affecting his confidence.
Not at all, he said. At the big league level we face the best pitchers in the world. All we got to do is stay positive, and keep working hard.
I just go out every single night, do my best, give 100-percent, and stay positive as much as I can and do my best.
Iglesias gave a glimpse in Triple-A this season of what he might be able to do at the plate. Although, he spent almost a month on the disabled list from May 29 June 26 with a back injury, in 88 games he hit .266 with a home run and 23 RBI. He had a nine-game hitting streak and a 13-game on-base streak. He ended his minor league season with at least one hit in 21 of his final 26 games. He hit a team-high .341 in May, going 28-for-82. In his final 10 games, he hit .333, going 12-for-36 with a .429 on-base percentage and .389 slugging percentage.
Will he be able to do that at the big league level?
I think he is, Beyeler said. But if we could figure that out about everybody, wed know which ones to send up here and the other ones not to even bother with. So thats baseball. Its tough to predict what guys are going to do three, four, five years down the road, whos going to make the adjustments, whos not.
He definitely has bat-to-ball skills and eye-hand coordination, things that are going to give him that chance. He may not be a guy that drives the ball all over the park but he should be able to move runners, and put the ball in play, and hit and run, and do the little things that keep him behind the pitchers out there on the field, which is ultimately what everybody wants.
When Iglesias left Cuba he spoke no English. When he signed with the Sox, he used an interpreter to do interviews. Now, he is fluent in English, and does interviews on his own. Its all been part of the process for him, getting comfortable both on and off the field.
Thanks to my teammates, Im pretty comfortable, he said. I dont think I speak perfect English, but Im doing my best.
Thats all anyone can ask.
Hell spend the offseason, he said, working to put some muscle on his 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame, trying to get stronger so he can be healthy for he hopes a full major league season next year.
Whatever struggles he may be going through now will only help him prepare for that.
He improves every day, especially at this level, Beyeler said. All these guys are getting used to this and getting comfortable. Its the same thing with me being up here. You get more comfortable being around guys and seeing how things operate. Its the same with him being a young player. There are forces outside the game that he has to deal with and things on a daily basis and taking care of himself and making sure he can get on the field every day and be an everyday player. Those things are important. He missed Single-A ball and rookie league where a lot of those things are ingrained in young guys. So he had to figure that out and hes done a good job of that. Hes got to continue to keep going.