McAdam: Confidence key with Iglesias surge

McAdam: Confidence key with Iglesias surge
June 26, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Two hits one night, three hits the next. On base -- at least once -- seemingly every night.
He may not have nearly the number of plate appearances necessary to qualify for the league leaders, but that may be coming.
Somehow, in the last month, Jose Iglesias -- the same Iglesias who owned a .135 career average in the majors before this season; the same Iglesias who was hitting just .202 at Triple A Pawtucket this time a month ago -- has become a hit machine.
That transformation was never more noteworthy than it was Tuesday, when Iglesias's emergence led to the Red Sox' decision to option Will Middlebrooks to Pawtucket.
Hours later, Iglesias added to his hit total with three more -- a double and two singles -- boosting his average to an incredible .434.
Only two weeks ago, the Red Sox were saying that they would try to find three or four opportunities for Iglesias to play either shortstop or third base.
Tuesday, he effectively became the team's everyday third baseman -- at least for the time being -- and in so doing, forced Middlebrooks' demotion to Triple A.
Only a year ago, Middlebrooks was the power-hitting third baseman of the future, hitting 15 homers in less than half a season and posting a robust .509 slugging percentage.
Iglesias, meanwhile, wasn't hitting his weight.
Now, Middlebrooks has been exiled to rediscover his stroke, and Iglesias has somehow morphed into a latter-day Wade Boggs, reaching base at least once in the last 27 games, the longest such stretch for a Red Sox rookie since Trot Nixon in 1999.
"I think everybody is (a little surprised)," acknowledged Red Sox hitting instructor Victor Rodriguez, who had worked with Iglesias throughout the minor leagues and knows his swing better than anyone in the organization. "But it's amazing what confidence does. I think that's the main thing with him. Confidence, and he's consistent, day-in, day-out. He comes in and does his work and he believes in what he's doing and he's sticking with it.
"He goes out there and he believes he's a major leaguer and he believes that's what he's doing."
Indeed he is. But surely this isn't solely about the power of positive thinking. Most athletes, most major leaguers, want to do well.
That doesn't mean they always do. Success at the major league level isn't just about desire. Otherwise, every hitter would be hitting above .400.
But there's also little doubt that Iglesias's surge can be partly attributed to motivation.
When Iglesias was shipped down to Pawtucket a week into the season, following Stephen Drew's activation from the disabled list, it was a cold slap of reality.
In time, he grew frustrated enough that he began jogging to first on ground balls, eventually earning the wrath of his manager Gary DiSarcina, who benched him in a disciplinary move.
When Middlebrooks was placed on the DL with a lower back issue in May, Iglesias got a reprieve with a call-up. Once in Boston, he seemed intent on never leaving.
"He wanted to be here (in Boston)," said Rodriguez. "He didn't want to be in the minor leagues. He wasn't motivated in the minor leagues. He loved being here and he wants to be a major leaguer. Everything he does here is with a purpose. He wants to show people that he belongs."
Of course, there are physical and concrete adjustments that he's made at the plate, too. Iglesias has shown much better plate discipline. Moreover, when he decides to swing at a strike, he puts an aggressive swing on the ball.
"He's eliminated a lot of movement," said Rodriguez. "He's square, his swing his short. In the past, he wasn't able to (just) swing at good pitches -- he swung at everything. And now he's controlling the strike zone. He's looking for a pitch and if he doesn't get it, he takes it.
"He's not afraid to hit with two strikes. He's got all the good qualities of a good hitter and the confidence to go with it."
Rodriguez recalled that it took Iglesias almost half a season before he recorded an extra-base hit in Pawtucket. Now, he sees Iglesias routinely drive the ball.
"The ball's coming off the bat with some life," marveled Rodriguez, unable to hide a smile. "It's a great thing to watch."
Last year, when Iglesias frequently appeared overmatched against big league pitchers.
"It was a fake confidence," said Rodriguez. "He was trying to do too much. Right now, it's the real thing. I talked to him last year and you could tell that he was struggling. He was frustrated and trying to convince himself with that fake confidence.
"What you're seeing right now is real confidence. It's the real thing. The way he goes about it is the right way. He's consistent. And you've got to give him credit because he's worked at it. He believes."
The longer the streak goes, so, too, does everyone else.