PAWTUCKET â€“ Speaking with a straight face, Jose Iglesias called his spring training experience under the direction of new Boston manager Bobby Valentine â€śawesome.â€ť Expounding further, the shortstop prospect provided evidence designed to illustrate the change in culture surrounding the way the Red Sox conduct business between the white lines.
â€śOne day we [myself and Valentine] were around the cage talking about hitting. Next heâ€™s saying that if you take care of the little things, the bigger things will take care of themselves,â€ť was the story Iglesias shared Wednesday at PawSox Media Day after the media crush that had engulfed him thinned out. â€śHeâ€™s a great energy guy and I learned a lot by paying attention to everything he said.â€ť
As Iglesias made reference to, Valentine comes to Boston widely regarded as a tactician who firmly believes in the importance of stressing every possible facet that figures to have a direct correlation to the gameâ€™s outcome. Regarding Valentineâ€™s hands-on approach, PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler plans to take the lessons he learned from his time around Valentine during the spring and incorporate them at the Triple-A level.
Beyelerâ€™s rationale is this: The players currently in Pawtucket need to become familiar with the idea that should the summons to Boston come, they will be playing for Valentine, the boss. By taking some of Valentineâ€™s principles and working them into the minor-league environment, Beyelerâ€™s aim is to remove some of the guesswork and place the players under his jurisdiction in a position that they have a better understanding of what to expect should the call from Boston come.
â€śSeeing what [Valentine] did during spring training, weâ€™ve got to emulate that down here,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śThat way when they go up there, they can bunt and hit-and-run and be able to do all the other stuff that will allow them to step right in and be comfortable.
â€śThe game itself wonâ€™t change but there may be a few situations we throw in from time to time where guys bunt when they normally wouldnâ€™t or perform a delayed steal, things that we never used before,â€ť Beyeler continued, furthering the case that the Red Sox are in completely different hands with Valentine as opposed to Terry Francona.
As the Red Sox director of player development, Ben Crockett realizes that the onus falls on him to deliver the message from the major-league side of the equation and dispense it to all the minor-league affiliates. That said, Crockett noted that regardless of whoâ€™s calling the shots in the big-league dugout, the primary mission of the farm system does not change all that much.
â€śFrom a tactical standpoint regarding some of the plays Bobby may use versus what other managers have used, those types of things can vary which is why we want to give guys the smoothest transition we can,â€ť Crockett stated. â€śWith a large chunk of [the Pawtucket players] having exposure to major-league camp, it was helpful for them to know the major-league staff and become comfortable around them and kind of see the things that they like to have done.â€ť
Crockett noted that the closer the player is to reaching the bigs, the more he figures to find himself immersed in Valentineâ€™s code of baseball conduct. That said, itâ€™s important for the players not to get completely sidetracked from the work that needs to be done. â€śCertainly itâ€™s important to know what itâ€™s like when facing an important situation, but itâ€™s about taking [the philosophy of the big-league manager] and balancing both,â€ť Crockett stated. â€śYou may cater to the style of the major leagues, but you want to develop your players to be able to do a lot of things.â€ť
The 2012 season gets under way Thursday night with the PawSox ringing in the new season at McCoy Stadium against Buffalo. Righthander Justin Germano gets the pitching nod for the PawSox. The 29-year-old spent last season in Clevelandâ€™s farm system before getting released in August. All told Germano has pitched in 79 MLB games between stints with the Padres and Indians.
Who will follow Germano in the rotation remains a bit of a mystery with Beyeler expected to remove any of the guesswork prior to Thursdayâ€™s 7:05 first pitch.
Striking the right blend of veterans with up-and-coming prospects is the goal of any Triple-A squad. The PawSox seem to have both fronts covered with promising sorts such as Iglesias, catcher Ryan Lavarnway and third baseman Will Middlebrooks joining forces with established sorts like 33-year-old pitcher Aaron Cook, he of 10 major-league seasons with Colorado.
â€śWeâ€™re excited about the group we have here,â€ť Crockett said. â€śWeâ€™ve got a nice mix of guys with some significant major-league time who can contribute here [in Triple A] right away while mentoring some of the younger guys.â€ť