PAWTUCKET ‚Äď Arnie Beyeler has been one of the few baseball constants in Jose Iglesias‚Äô life since the Cuban defector joined the Red Sox organization three years ago, so when the second-year Pawtucket Red Sox manager expresses strong desire regarding what he thinks is in store for Iglesias in 2012, it‚Äôs best to take notice.
‚ÄúAt some point during the season, I would guess he‚Äôs going to help that team up there,‚ÄĚ was the image that appeared when Beyeler gazed into his crystal ball. ‚ÄúWhether it‚Äôs for a week or a month, I don‚Äôt know. The way the game works, though, they‚Äôre going to need somebody up there at some point and I would expect he would be one of the guys they would call upon based on what he‚Äôs done.‚ÄĚ
Certainly Beyeler isn‚Äôt lacking in the proof department, hence why it‚Äôs important to take his endorsement at full value regarding the vast potential surrounding the 22-year-old Iglesias and how it could lead to him playing in Boston in the not-too-distant future. Having managed Iglesias first in Double-A Portland in 2010 and again in Pawtucket last season, Beyeler has seen the youngster grow by leaps and bounds to the point that he now communicates in English without a hint of hesitation.
Speaking Tuesday following Pawtucket‚Äôs three-hour workout session at McCoy Stadium, Beyeler noted additional areas where Iglesias has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Baseball has always been the easy part for the player. It‚Äôs the other aspect ‚Äď the unfamiliarity stemming from being a stranger in a strange land ‚Äď that the shortstop phenom has by and large conquered to the point that Beyeler now sees someone on the verge of taking that all-important final step needed to become an everyday major-league player.
‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs impressed me the most is how he takes care of himself in a culture he‚Äôs only been in for a few years,‚ÄĚ Beyeler said. ‚ÄúHe speaks the language fluently. He‚Äôs learning how to talk back so he‚Äôs even more of a smart aleck; he‚Äôs got answers now.
‚ÄúTo come over [to the U.S.] and adapt as quickly as he has ‚Ä¶ I‚Äôve always kind of kidded that his off time is when he‚Äôs on the field,‚ÄĚ Beyeler continued. ‚ÄúThe other stuff, taking care of his family while finding a place to live, that can be tough.‚ÄĚ
Said Iglesias, ‚ÄúThe first two years, it was a rush. I was learning so much, but now I feel comfortable with the language, the culture, my teammates and myself. It‚Äôs part of the process, but I feel way more relaxed. I can handle situations much better.‚ÄĚ
Finding oneself locked in a good place can also stem from knowledge. As he gets set for his third professional season and second straight year with the PawSox, Iglesias does so fully cognizant of what he needs to in order to get up to Boston. People will reference his spring training numbers ‚Äď in nine games he batted .200 with just one extra base hit in 25 at-bats ‚Äď as the main reason why the Red Sox declared Mike Aviles the winner in the team‚Äôs shortstop derby.
Once the bat catches up with his flawless glovework, only then will the perception of him as a lineup liability change in the player‚Äôs favor.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve got to put some good, quality at-bats together,‚ÄĚ said Iglesias. ‚ÄúShow discipline and put the ball in play when my pitch comes.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs understanding what it‚Äôs like to use your body to hit and drive the baseball, putting a quality swing on a quality pitch and not going up to the plate swinging,‚ÄĚ Beyeler said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs turning into a hitter.‚ÄĚ
Aside from his preseason numbers, the time Iglesias spent in major-league camp allowed him to further develop a kinship with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. In Iglesias, Pedroia sees someone who could very well become his double-play partner, hence why he felt it was important to expose the prospect to the ways in which veteran players conduct their business.
‚ÄúBeing around Pedey is so much fun. I learned how disciplined he is whether he‚Äôs on the field, in the hitting cage or at the gym,‚ÄĚ Iglesias said. ‚ÄúHe would scream at me, but that‚Äôs all right. I appreciated that.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThose [big league] players, they understand how special this guy is and what he brings to the table,‚ÄĚ Beyeler said.
Beyeler made the point that Iglesias doesn‚Äôt have nearly the number of at-bats that most prospects would have at this particular stage of their development. Injuries over the past few seasons have resulted in Iglesias logging just 618 at-bats. His manager knows there‚Äôs just one remedy to fix that.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs struggled to stay on the field for a consistent period of time,‚ÄĚ noted the skipper. ‚ÄúYoung guys need to learn how to take care of themselves and realize how important it is to play with some bumps and bruises. You usually don‚Äôt learn that until you get to Double or Triple A, which is why he‚Äôs figuring it out right now.‚ÄĚ
Iglesias understands that he‚Äôs close, hence why he and Beyeler feel that not too much time will elapse before the Red Sox look in his direction.
‚ÄúI feel like it‚Äôs going to be a good year for me and the organization,‚ÄĚ said a smiling Iglesias.