21-year-old Jose Iglesias had a short, but telling answer when I asked him what his goals are for the upcoming season.
“My goal is to learn,” Iglesias said.
He’ll certainly get that opportunity after being assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket to begin his second season in the Red Sox organization. A broken finger last year limited Iglesias to just 284 plate appearances between Single-A Lowell and Double-A Portland, and he’ll be one of the youngest players in the International League in 2011.
“He’s shown a lot of maturity and his ability is off the charts,” said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “We’re going to throw him in there and let him play defense behind our pitchers. He does a good job at the plate and he’ll get his hits and hopefully he’ll do the same thing as he did last year when he went to Portland.”
“It’s great for me to be in Pawtucket,” Iglesias told me. “It’s a great league and I’m going to go there and learn little-by-little every day. The team made the decision to send me to Triple-A, and all I’m going to do is focus on playing hard in every game.”
The Red Sox signed the Cuban defector in 2009 to a 4-year, $8.25 million contract largely for his defensive brilliance. But Iglesias has not appeared overmatched at the plate as he batted .285 (.315 OBP/.357 SLG) in 57 games with Portland last year, before batting .320 (8-for-25) in 15 exhibition games this spring with Boston.
“It was a great spring for me,” Iglesias said. “To be around guys with experience like Pedroia, Scutaro, and Gonzalez was great for me.”
As the Red Sox top-rated minor league prospect this year, Iglesias will attract considerable attention, but his manager says he isn’t concerned.
“He’s a great kid,” Beyeler said. “Anybody that can come over from another country by themselves like that when they’re 19 years old and learn another language in a year is going to be just fine. I think baseball is probably the least of his worries.”
“Baseball is all that I know how to do – it’s what I’ve done all of my life,” Iglesias said. “I’m very excited – not to be the top-rated prospect – but we have a lot of talent in this organization and I’m very comfortable with my teammates.”
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The PawSox concluded exhibition play with a 7-1 win over Rochester on Friday, meaning they won all four games that I saw this week in Ft. Myers.
Yamaico Navarro, who went 5-for-5 with a game-winning HR in the bottom of the 9th inning on Thursday, led-off Friday’s game with another home run. It was Navarro’s eighth straight hit in as many at-bats over a 3-game stretch that went as follows: 2B, 2B, 2B, 2B, HR, 1B, HR, HR.
That surface-of-the-sun hot streak finally ended when Navarro grounded out in his second at-bat.
Josh Reddick drilled a grand slam off of left-handed pitcher Chuck James on Friday, and Pawtucket’s other runs scored on a bases-loaded walk by Lars Anderson and an RBI single by Jose Iglesias.
Brandon Duckworth pitched 3.2 scoreless innings to get the win.
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Here is Pawtucket’s roster to begin the season:
Starting rotation: Alfredo Aceves, Brandon Duckworth, Matt Fox, Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland
Bullpen: Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden, Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, Randy Williams.
Catchers: Luis Exposito, Mike McKenry
Infielders: Lars Anderson, Jose Iglesias, Yamaico Navarro, Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, Tony Thomas
Outfielders: Ryan Kalish, Juan Carlos Linares, Daniel Nava, Josh Reddick
LHP Felix Doubront (not on the active roster) will stay behind in Florida to build up his pitch count after being shut down early in spring training due to tightness in his elbow. He’s expected to join Pawtucket’s starting rotation within a couple of weeks with Fox being the most likely candidate to move to the bullpen.
Duckworth will also make one more appearance in Ft. Myers before heading north.
The PawSox open the season with a pair of home games next Thursday and Friday vs. Rochester. For tickets and info, go to pawsox.com.
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