PAWTUCKET â€“ Granted, itâ€™s only April, but when a player increases his batting average by 170 points in less than two weeks, curious minds want to know why.
Is the player seeing the ball better? Or is the spike the result of some sort of mechanical adjustment, such as closing the stance or shortening the stride? Are all those extra sessions in the batting cage finally paying off?
In the case of Jose Iglesias, the recent rise in his offensive production can be traced to the adjustments the shortstop prospect looked to make before the first pitch of the 2012 season was even thrown.
â€śI want to be disciplined and take every at-bat pitch-by-pitch,â€ť Iglesias said.
Lately, heâ€™s been putting together the type of grinding at-bats the Red Sox preach to all their young hitters. Heâ€™s hit safely in seven of his past 10 games, his 12-for-40 showing translating into a .300 average. Over that same span, heâ€™s collected four multi-hit games including a 3-for-5 showing at Rochester April 12. Heâ€™s also walked six times over the same 10-game span, after seeing just 21 free passes in 101 Triple-A games a season ago.
â€śThe bottom line is that I have to make adjustments on my own because Iâ€™m only one hitting,â€ť Iglesias said.
Back in spring training, Iglesias expressed confidence that he would be able to solve Triple-A pitching, yet when he opened the season with a .071 average â€“ one hit in 14 at-bats â€“ the drumbeat regarding his good glove/no stick reputation only intensified.
Now, Iglesias is starting to find his stride. Sundayâ€™s rainout for the Pawtucket Red Sox means the Cuban defector will take a .241 average into Mondayâ€™s doubleheader against Durham. The mark indicates substantial progress, and the hits, along with his improved patience, lend credence to the idea that he can handle major-league pitching.
â€śHeâ€™s very proud of that,â€ť said Red Sox minor-league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez about Iglesiasâ€™ newfound keen-eye approach. â€śLast year, he knew that he didnâ€™t have many walks, so every time he walks, he feels very good about himself.â€ť
When the topic switches to Iglesias and his hitting, Red Sox decision-makers have always taken the stance that he simply needs to get more at-bats under his belt. During his first two pro seasons, injuries limited Iglesias to 171 games and 618 at-bats.
â€śHeâ€™s still a young player,â€ť Rodriguez cautioned, â€śbut the confidence he has in knowing that he has to focus on the process, thatâ€™s helped him a lot, particularly from the mental side.
â€śLast year, I think he was trying to do a little too much and found himself not slowing the game down,â€ť Rodriguez continued. â€śAt times, the game still speeds up on him, but now heâ€™s able to make some adjustments.â€ť
Now that heâ€™s scratched the surface, Iglesias knows thereâ€™s no turning back.
â€śI know I still have work to do,â€ť he said.