BOSTON (CBS) – The battle to be the Red Sox starting shortstop this spring was initially set to be between Mike Aviles and Nick Punto.
That was until a hot-shot rookie came in and impressed his new manager.
Yes, Bobby Valentine was clearly smitten with Jose Iglesias. And who could blame him? After all, you watch Iglesias take ground balls for a minute and you see that he is different. His hands are special. His range is special.
The only question is can the kid hit? And, you know what? He couldn’t.
Iglesias went just 5-for-25 (.200) with an OBP of .280 this spring, and some of those numbers are against pitchers that are either trying to make the team or are working on things such as off-speed pitches, etc.
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Yes, Valentine loves the kid, but he even admitted to the Red Sox beat reporters the same thing.
“It was not a tough decision. Eventually things play themselves out, and it’s easy to do the right thing,” he told reporters on Tuesday (courtesy of ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes).
“He needs to work a little more on the consistency of his swing and play. He’s been working on things and about two weeks ago he had a mechanic that looked like it was real functional. I think an 0 for 3 took him out of it. That’s one of the things he has to develop, a confidence in his program.”
“I don’t stop believing in a player until I see him stop believing in himself. He came into the dugout with a look of wondering that I don’t like to see. This is not the time to be searching. You have to go into the season not searching.”
Another factor may be Aviles. Going into Tuesday, the career utility man was hitting .333 with four RBI and a slugging percentage of .533 for the spring. He looked better than I thought he would at shortstop, even just taking ground balls. Aviles is confident that he can do the job and for now, he’s proven that he’s worthy.
Now that could all change once the season starts. If Aviles struggles or Iglesias finds a consistent swing down in Pawtucket, then maybe we see Iglesias back up in May or June.
I am torn on though. I know that the talent evaluators always seem to feel that these kids shouldn’t be rushed. Let them experience the slumps, struggles, and all the bumps along the way in the minor leagues. At the big league level, it could destroy them for good.
However, I also think there’s a chance that Iglesias indeed CAN hit on the big league level if given a long look. Heck, even if he hits .240 for Boston, he can win games with his defense. And, I’m sure Lester, Beckett, Buchholz and company would love a middle of the diamond defense that would feature Iglesias, Pedroia, and Ellsbury.
So, I can go either way, but I do think this one played itself out. At least for now. I think having Aviles as short and Iglesias in Pawtucket is the right way to start the season.
But, keep an eye on things. Because we all know a lot can happen in April.
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