PAWTUCKET — As if enough confidence wasn’t radiating from Jose Iglesias already, the shortstop was privileged enough to spend part of his Thursday afternoon with a noteworthy batting practice partner.
About two hours prior to first pitch, David Ortiz emerged from the clubhouse to get a few on-field swings. Fighting through the crowded wall of TV cameras and microphones, Iglesias had every intention of stepping in the cage the moment Ortiz needed a breather.
Iglesias may have been at McCoy Stadium, but it was clear that the big leagues were still on his mind.
He understands why Boston optioned him to Pawtucket despite opening the season with a .450 average in six games – the fact that Stephen Drew was signed to serve as the everyday shortstop represents the main reason. The encouraging start hasn’t dimmed Iglesias’ belief that another summons is in the cards this season.
“I was disappointed, but it’s out of my control. All I can do is come to the field, be a better player, take extra batting practice, learn something everyday and be a better player,” said Iglesias, who was slotted in the No. 2 hole for Thursday’s McCoy Stadium opener. “When I get another opportunity, I will be better that time.
“It was hard to leave the team, but I had a good time. My first Opening Day in the big leagues, it was exciting,” he continued. “It was fun to win; we won a lot of games when I was there. I enjoyed it and it was great to be there.”
Iglesias now must turn the page and remember to carry that big-league attitude to the ballpark each day, this despite that for the foreseeable future, he’ll be honing his craft in cities such as Pawtucket, Rochester and Buffalo, not Boston, New York and Toronto.
“The situation with Stephen coming back and ready to play, I think it was great for Jose to get off to that hot start and bring that momentum down to Pawtucket,” noted Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “It’s a small sample size, but he had a good offseason and was able to build off it during spring training.”
As he spoke about feeling good, Iglesias slipped in the importance of staying healthy. During each of his three pro seasons, the Cuban defector has been sidelined for long stretches. While the staying course while in Pawtucket is a point of emphasis, the same could be said for making sure that he patrols shortstop on a regular basis.
“Certainly being on the field consistently leads to a better chance to display those skills and improve. That’s a big part to the puzzle,” said Crockett. “The physical routines that he went through during the offseason and the way he pushed himself has allowed him to get in a position where he can stay strong and ready to play everyday.”
It’s clear that Iglesias has a fan in Ortiz, who made that perfectly clear upon declaring, “Iggy is like a son to me. Man, I’m old.
“I always talk to him, and I always let him know how this game goes. Sometimes these situations are going to happen. You’ve got options, and the team has got to make a move,” the Red Sox slugger added. “What you’ve got to do is come down here and keep on working hard, and the minute the team has the opportunity to need somebody, they will call you up. You’ve got to keep in mind that you’ve got to come here and bust your tail just like you were doing up in the big leagues, and everything will come through easier.”
PawSox skipper Gary DiSarcina made it a point to sit down with Iglesias at his locker stall prior to the player heading out for his batting practice session with Ortiz. No doubt the pair talked about ironing out some sort of compensation for the No. 10. DiSarcina wore the number during Pawtucket’s first road trip; he’s now listed at No. 16 with Iglesias claiming No. 10.
DiSarcina got a sense of how Iglesias handled his first taste of MLB success – last year saw him bat .118 in 25 games with Boston – upon phoning Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield.
“The point of emphasis is to get Jose back up there; we don’t want these guys down here,” DiSarcina stressed. “He can get back there, no doubt.”