Consider this Jose Iglesias’ second chance.
With veteran shortstop Stephen Drew still is experiencing concussion symptoms more than two weeks after being hit in the helmet by a pitch, Iglesias is in line to be the Red Sox’s Opening Day shortstop. It’s an opportunity he may have gotten had he proven last September that he’s capable of hitting at the major league level.
“My plan last year was to learn. If I get a chance to open the season with the team, it’s a different plan,” Iglesias told the Boston Herald. “This year, it’s about getting results, helping this team and winning some ballgames. That’s the bottom line.”
Team officials claim they have seen improvement from Iglesias, even though it isn’t reflected in his spring training batting average. They say they have witnessed a more mature, confident hitter with a better overall approach to at-bats.
If that’s truly the case, it would be a stark contrast from the final month of last season. Called up on Aug. 25, Iglesias played almost every day the rest of the way and batted .118 (8-for-68) with only three extra-base hits. His most notable moment: Then-manager Bobby Valentine lifted him for a pinch hitter midway through a seventh-inning at-bat Sept. 15 in Toronto.
Thus, the Sox signed Drew to a one-year, $9.5 million contract. Iglesias was ticketed for Triple-A Pawtucket until Drew got injured.
“When you have a tough time, it’s difficult to stay positive,” Iglesias said. “This is a negative game. Last year, I took that month as experience for myself. I didn’t focus on anything else besides learning how to play the game the right way.”
Iglesias was only 19 when he defected from Cuba in 2009 and signed a four-year contract that included a $6 million signing bonus. Assorted injuries have limited him to 1,076 minor league plate appearances over the past three seasons.
“I think we forget how young he still is,” assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez told the Herald. “Coming here, going straight to Double-A, you don’t see a kid that’s 19, 20 years old going through that. We all would’ve loved to see him develop right away, but we knew it was going to take time.”
Iglesias always has played sparkling defense, so the Red Sox aren’t expecting him to be an offensive force. After all, he likely will bat ninth on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.
Still, Iglesias still must prove he’s a competent hitter if he’s going to stay in the majors once Drew returns, especially with top prospect Xander Bogaerts nipping at his heels.
“In the past, he used to give a lot of at-bats away just by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, making soft contact,” Rodriguez said. “Now it looks like he’s in a better position when he swings. He has better control of the barrel of the bat, he’s squaring balls better. Overall, he’s stronger, his daily routine is better.”
Nava close to roster spot
OF Daniel Nava appears to have the inside track on a spot on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster. Nava has been competing with OF Ryan Sweeney, OF/1B Mike Carp, 1B Lyle Overbay, 1B Mauro Gomez and others for two spots on the Red Sox’ bench. But manager John Farrell may have tipped his hand Wednesday when he said Nava is a candidate to bat second in the order against right-handed pitchers. “You love what Jonny (Gomes) and Shane (Victorino) can do against left-handed pitching,” Farrell said. “Against a lefty, we’ve got some options there. Right-handed, that’s where Nava’s situation comes a little bit more clear. He’s swung the bat very well from the left side of the plate.” A switch-hitter who can play left or right field, Nava spent large portions of the 2010 and 2012 seasons with the Red Sox. But the former independent leaguer never has made an Opening Day roster.
Bogaerts returns from Classic
Xander Bogaerts rejoined the Red Sox after competing for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. The 20-year-old native of Aruba described playing in the WBC as “my big league dream.” Said Bogaerts, “What really hit me was when we played against the Dominican (Republic). All those superstars were out there. You have (Robinson) Cano, (Jose) Reyes and those guys. The whole team was an All-Star team. And I’m there playing against them. Throughout the whole tournament there was a lot of talent from all over the world, but the Dominican team was the best of the rest.” Team Netherlands reached the semifinals of the tournament before losing to the Dominican Republic, which beat Puerto Rico in the championship game. Red Sox clubhouse attendants draped a flag of the Netherlands over Bogaerts’ locker while he was away. He plans to save the flag and display it at his home. “The guys have been coming up to me and saying, ‘Good job,’ and ‘Congratulations,’ ” Bogaerts said. “I don’t know who put the flag there, but whoever did it made me very happy.”
By the numbers
756 — On-base plus slugging percentage for OF Jonny Gomes in 316 career games as a DH. Gomes has an .851 OPS in 420 games as an outfielder. Gomes is slated to help fill in at DH for injured David Ortiz.
Quote to note
“At some point, we can’t totally neglect spring training. We’re going to balance that as best we can with the long-term production they’ve had, and then where we see them fitting positionally on the field. We have to put some weight on what they’re doing in these final 10 days.” — Red Sox manager John Farrell on the influence of spring training statistics to determining which players get the final roster spots.