BRADENTON, Fla. -- Just over two weeks before Opening Day, most of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's roster decisions revolve around the starting rotation and bullpen.
But one key position player battle remains at shortstop and it could prove interesting.
Mike Aviles entered camp as the presumptive favorite at the position, but Jose Iglesias has made that decision more complicated, not only with his defensive brilliance -- which was expected -- but also with significant improvement with the bat -- which wasn't.
Valentine has told a number of scouts from outside the organization that his clear preference is to have Iglesias open the season as his starting shortstop. Sources indicate, meanwhile, that the Red Sox front office is in favor of Iglesias getting additional experienced at Triple A Pawtucket to open the sesason, with Aviles opening the year at the major league starter.
Asked about the evaluation process before the Sox took on the Pittsburgh Pirates, Valentine was suitably cryptic
"I think we've seen a lot,'' said Valentine. "It will just be a determination on whether or not it's his time. He's played pretty well and showed really good progress. We've got to decide whether he has enough undergraduate credentials in order to take the next step forward.
"I think he can hit and field at the major league level. But I don't know that he can make the major league team and perform right now the way we need him to perform in this setting, in the group that we have.''
When Valentine was asked about a timetable for a decision on shortstop, he said he'd prefer to wait "as long as I can. I don't see any reason to it sooner rather than later because anything can happen.
"I think his ability is good enough. Whether it's his time is the question, with all the other contributing factors, including Mike Aviles, who's doing great.''