FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine walked into the clubhouse Tuesday morning, looked to his right and laughed. Dustin Pedroia was again razzing Jose Iglesias (if Pedroia does not give you a hard time, there is something wrong).
But the fun would soon end for Iglesias. Valentine motioned for Iglesias to follow him to his office.
There, plenty of encouraging words were uttered by Valentine and Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington, but Iglesias still heard the news he dreaded. He was starting the season with Triple-A Pawtucket.
“We had a real emotional meeting,” Valentine said.
When Iglesias played his first pro season, for the 2010 Portland Sea Dogs, he showcased tremendous fielding skills and was labeled a sure-thing shortstop.
He still is. But not yet.
“Ben told him, ‘It’s not if, it’s when,”‘ Valentine said.
And Iglesias, 22, seemed to take that to heart.
“It’s always difficult to hear the news,” he said. “I think they know what they’re doing, the best for my development, for my career. We’ll see what happens next.
“I can’t control it. Get better — that’s what I can control. That’s what I will do.”
One of two things had to happen for Iglesias to break camp on the major league roster — he had to show vast improvement at the plate, where he batted .235 last year for Pawtucket. Or versatile infielder Mike Aviles had to be a bust at short.
Iglesias batted .200 this spring, getting two hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Aviles, 31, batted .333, while playing solid enough defense.
“Mike just didn’t do anything wrong,” Valentine said.
And recently, in Valentine’s view, Iglesias stumbled with his confidence.
“I like to think that I don’t stop believing in a player until I kind of see him stop believing in himself,” Valentine said. “I saw that the other day.
“He came in the dugout and he had that look of wonderment I don’t like to see. It’s not the time to be searching. You can’t go into the major league season searching. You have to be confident.”
Iglesias believes he is confident. “I just had a couple bad games hitting,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something else. It’s just part of the process.”
Sending players down has always been part of the process. Valentine mentioned two examples that should have meaning for Iglesias.
In 1996, promising Mets outfielder Alex Ochoa — now the Red Sox first-base coach — was sent down to Triple-a Norfolk, where Valentine was managing.
“My message to (Iglesias) was the same one I gave Alex Ochoa a hundred years ago,” Valentine said. “That just because God delays, does not mean God denies. (Iglesias) won’t be denied.”
Valentine’s second example concerned himself and his playing career that featured several trips to the minors.
“Hey, I stunk and I got sent out,” Valentine said. “I thought it was the wrong decision.
“(Iglesias) doesn’t stink. He has all the right to think it’s the wrong decision.”
Iglesias would like to prove he belongs, soon.
“I’ll go down to Triple-A, get some good AB’s, do my best as always, and we’ll see,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to help this team win.”
If Iglesias produces in Pawtucket, Valentine will expect to hear from PawSox Manager Arnie Beyeler.
“I’ve gotten to know Arnie and the Triple-A staff. I totally respect their baseball acumen and their eyes,” Valentine said.
Valentine emphasized the decision was a group effort, with Cherington.
“We’ve had discussions every day on this team. With Jose, there was never a debate,” Valentine said.
And, finally, the manager knows that sending Iglesias to the minors will mean unfair expectations for Aviles.
“Mike is such a good player. (But) a ground ball goes into the outfield, half the people watching are going to say, ‘Ah, Jose would have caught that ball.’ “
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]