Second language first priority for Iglesias

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Second language first priority for Iglesias

Jose Iglesias spoke two languages when he defected from Cuba in 2008: Spanish and baseball.

Over the last four years, Iglesias has challenged himself to become fluent in English as well. It is just as much of a priority as it is to become part of the Boston Red Sox.

The 22-year-old shortstop sees the two going hand-in-hand. He believes better communication can lead to better play on the field.

Its good for me, for my career, for my development, for my communication with my teammates. I live here in the United States so I have to speak in English, Iglesias said. It was a little difficult in the beginning because you cant communicate really well with your teammates. But its a process. Right now I feel better, I can talk a little bit with my teammates, were hanging out a little more.

This spring training, Iglesias was noticeably more comfortable speaking English than he was at the end of last season. Rather than sitting at his locker and watching conversations from afar, he approached his teammates to be part of the chatter.

Engaging in small talk is just one way Iglesias works on improving his English. During the offseason he also exchanged text messages with his teammates and went to the movies to see English-language films (comedies are his favorite). He jokes that his winter home of Miami is the worst place to learn a second language because Spanish is widely spoken, but he makes it a point to speak in English there as much as possible.

Iglesias teammates have taken notice to the improvement in his communication during the offseason.

Hes a very smart kid and hes willing to learn, said shortstop Mike Aviles. Not just in baseball, but in the transition from Cuba to here in America. That alone, he has that drive on the inside of him that helps him get better at everything and I think thats a big part of it. I know he can communicate very well in the Spanish language and it kind of maybe bothers him to not be able to communicate like he wants to in English. I think that little bit of bother is what drives him to pick up the language and actually try harder. Hes done an unbelievable job.

In all honesty, sometimes a lot of guys are timid to step outside the box and in his case hes not shy at all. Hes a very outgoing person and if you get to know him in his native language, you can tell how outgoing and energetic he is. He wants to be the same person that he is speaking Spanish as he is speaking English. I think thats the big drive behind all of it for him.

For second baseman Dustin Pedroia, communicating with Iglesias is critical to their success together on the field. He praised Iglesias for wanting to learn English early on in his career.

When he signed, he roomed with Nate Spears, said Pedroia. A lot of times when guys come over here, they room with Latin guys so they can feel more comfortable. But Iggy wanted to make sure that he started learning English right away. Its good for him. Its smart . . . I need him to speak English because I dont speak Spanish. But hes learning, hes doing a great job. Hes still young. Hes learning every day.

When it comes to his bilingual teammates, Iglesias speaks to them in English instead of relying on their common understanding of Spanish. Aviles, who is of Puerto Rican descent, noted Iglesias is not afraid to ask questions to further his learning.

Its kind of like an exchange program, said Aviles. Sometimes my Spanish doesnt quite come out the way I want it and hell help me with it. And theres times, too, when he wants to say something in English and Ill explain, you say it like this, and hes like, 'All right, cool.'

I always come back with random one-liners when people say things to me, like sarcasm, and so he was asking me about that the other day. He said, Youve got to help me with some of the sarcasm stuff. That willingness to learn, in that sense, hes like that on the field and off the field. I think thats a big part of his development.

Iglesias will start this season in Triple-A Pawtucket but is expected to see playing time at Fenway Park. With a place on the team would come an increase in media exposure. Iglesias is aware of the importance in being able to communicate effectively with reporters.

We are on a special team and in a special media, he said. We have a lot of media here so you have to get better in your language because you have to be able to communicate, to say the right thing in the right moment. But I think I feel good with that. Im doing better. Not 100 percent, not perfect, but better.

In the meantime, he has tried to share some of his native language with his teammates.

Pedroia sometimes says some words like, Im youre papa, Iglesias said, smiling. I try to teach him a couple words, but no chance (laughs).

No matter which language he says it in, Pedroia and his Red Sox teammates are happy with the improvements they have seen in the young shortstop.

He wants to be good, said Pedroia. He wants to be great. You pull for guys who work that hard. Some guys just have to work hard on the field. He has to work hard off the field just to learn stuff. So were all pulling for him.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''