PAWTUCKET â€“ Arnie Beyeler has been one of the few baseball constants in Jose Iglesiasâ€™ 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, itâ€™s best to take notice.
â€śAt some point during the season, I would guess heâ€™s going to help that team up there,â€ť was the image that appeared when Beyeler gazed into his crystal ball. â€śWhether itâ€™s for a week or a month, I donâ€™t know. The way the game works, though, theyâ€™re 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 heâ€™s done.â€ť
Certainly Beyeler isnâ€™t lacking in the proof department, hence why itâ€™s 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 Pawtucketâ€™s 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. Itâ€™s the other aspect â€“ the unfamiliarity stemming from being a stranger in a strange land â€“ 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.
â€śWhatâ€™s impressed me the most is how he takes care of himself in a culture heâ€™s only been in for a few years,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śHe speaks the language fluently. Heâ€™s learning how to talk back so heâ€™s even more of a smart aleck; heâ€™s got answers now.
â€śTo come over [to the U.S.] and adapt as quickly as he has â€¦ Iâ€™ve always kind of kidded that his off time is when heâ€™s on the field,â€ť Beyeler continued. â€śThe other stuff, taking care of his family while finding a place to live, that can be tough.â€ť
Said Iglesias, â€śThe 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. Itâ€™s part of the process, but I feel way more relaxed. I can handle situations much better.â€ť
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 â€“ in nine games he batted .200 with just one extra base hit in 25 at-bats â€“ as the main reason why the Red Sox declared Mike Aviles the winner in the teamâ€™s 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 playerâ€™s favor.
â€śIâ€™ve got to put some good, quality at-bats together,â€ť said Iglesias. â€śShow discipline and put the ball in play when my pitch comes.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s understanding what itâ€™s 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,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śHeâ€™s turning into a hitter.â€ť
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.
â€śBeing around Pedey is so much fun. I learned how disciplined he is whether heâ€™s on the field, in the hitting cage or at the gym,â€ť Iglesias said. â€śHe would scream at me, but thatâ€™s all right. I appreciated that.â€ť
â€śThose [big league] players, they understand how special this guy is and what he brings to the table,â€ť Beyeler said.
Beyeler made the point that Iglesias doesnâ€™t 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 thereâ€™s just one remedy to fix that.
â€śHeâ€™s struggled to stay on the field for a consistent period of time,â€ť noted the skipper. â€śYoung 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 donâ€™t learn that until you get to Double or Triple A, which is why heâ€™s figuring it out right now.â€ť
Iglesias understands that heâ€™s close, hence why he and Beyeler feel that not too much time will elapse before the Red Sox look in his direction.
â€śI feel like itâ€™s going to be a good year for me and the organization,â€ť said a smiling Iglesias.