PAWTUCKET â€” Aaron Cook joined forces with the Red Sox over the winter after spending every single one of his 10 major-league seasons with the Colorado Rockies. Situated in Pawtucket as the 2012 season gets underway, the 33-year-old comes to McCoy Stadium with the reputation as someone who focuses primarily on pitching to contact and letting the defense take care of the rest.
It goes without saying that Cook and the rest of the PawSox pitchers are looking forward to shortstop wiz Jose Iglesias and sure-handed third baseman Will Middlebrooks teaming up to form a brick wall on the left side of the infield.
â€śI was very fortunate to play with [Rockies all-star shortstop] Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barnes at second base and those two guys are two of the best,â€ť said Cook, whoâ€™s in line to get the nod in Game 2 of Saturdayâ€™s single-admission doubleheader at home against Lehigh Valley. â€śWhen you know that people behind you can field the ball, it makes you a lot more confident to let the other team put the ball in play.
â€śSeeing Iglesias and Middlebrooks during spring training, it gives me all the more confidence knowing that theyâ€™re going to do their job and do it well.â€ť
Cook delved further about the possibility of not too many balls sneaking their way into left field.
As far as shortstop/third baseman combinations go, Iglesias and Middlebrooks dovetail one another quite nicely. Blessed with quick wrists and excellent hands, Iglesias possesses the ability to make the most difficult routine play seem routine.
Situated to the Cuban defectorâ€™s right is Middlebrooks, a hulking sort who knows how to eat up grounders and sling the ball across the diamond.
â€śTheyâ€™re both in the same boat,â€ť said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. â€śIggy is probably a year ahead of Will from the standpoint that [Iglesias has a full year of Triple A under his belt while Middlebrooks is still fairly new to Class AAA, having reached the level late last season].
â€śThey can both play and theyâ€™re both not that far away from being big-league players.â€ť
A former shortstop himself, Middlebrooks marvels at Iglesiasâ€™ wizardry whenever the 22-year-old goes deep into the hole between short and third.
â€śRarely do you see him not make a play,â€ť was the praise Middlebrooks extended to his infield counterpart. â€śHis work ethic is unbelievable. As good as he is, he could easily take it easy out there and probably be just fine. Jose works just as hard if not harder than anyone else.
â€śIâ€™ve told him that I want to be as good as you with the glove so work with me. I want you to make me better and vice versa so letâ€™s push each other.â€ť
The feeling is mutual when Iglesias was asked about Middlebrooks.
â€śHeâ€™s got very good range. Some day soon, heâ€™s going to be a very good third baseman,â€ť Iglesias said. â€śWeâ€™re hoping not to have too many balls get past us.â€ť
Middlebrooks admits that heâ€™s still trying break the tendencies that go with manning the shortstop position.
â€śIâ€™m trying get away from the two-handed stuff and get more single handed,â€ť he said.
â€śItâ€™s something I worked on with [Kevin Youkilis, the current patroller of the hot corner] during spring training.â€ť
How Iglesias and Middlebrooks are able to progress further in their development is something that bears watching as the months trickle off the baseball calendar.
Depending on how things break at the major league level, the duo could very well find themselves protecting the same amount of space inside Fenway Park a year from now â€“ if not sooner.
If such a development does come to fruition, the Red Sox public relations staff might want to think long and hard about coming up with an appropriate moniker, one along the same line of the â€śGold Dust Twinsâ€ť label that united Jim Rice and Fred Lynn when both were up-and-comers with the Red Sox in the mid-70s