PAWTUCKET, R.I. – With potential 2012 Boston starters Jose Iglesias at shortstop and Ryan Kalish in right field, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox are an optimistic bunch as they open the season tonight against Rochester.

The optimism spills over when it comes to the 21-year-old Iglesias.

He split last season between Class A Lowell and Double-A Portland and was limited to 57 games with the Sea Dogs because of a fractured right hand. Yet he was named the best defensive shortstop in Double-A by Baseball America.

“When I was scouting and saw (ex-Met) Rey Ordonez play with the flashy stuff — sliding into holes, diving up the middle, throwing from the ground, the quick release — there are some similarities (with Iglesias),” Pawtucket Manager Arnie Beyeler said. Beyeler managed Iglesias in Portland. “He’s a pretty impressive kid when it comes to defense. You’ll get to see a lot of fun stuff that he brings to the table on a daily basis.”

Iglesias recorded an overall .967 fielding percentage, with seven errors in 203 total chances last year. He also showed that he’s not a one-dimensional player, hitting .285 for Portland and .350 for Lowell.

“He can put the ball in play, he can run a little bit and he’s a tireless kid who has a lot of energy,” Beyeler said. “He has a lot of expectations. But he’s here to improve, polish his game and get better.”

Since J.D. Drew’s contract expires after this season, the possibility exists that Kalish could replace him in 2012. Kalish, after all, jumped three levels last season, and hit .252 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 53 games with Boston. He was named Boston’s rookie of the year by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

“There’s no doubt he has major league potential,” Beyeler said. “It’s just a matter of finding a spot to get him there. I think we all know he has a lot of ability. He shows up every day, works very hard and is a great teammate.

“He’s a young prospect that doesn’t have a spot on the team. Hopefully, he’ll throw up some numbers and get in his work so that, hopefully, when he does get an opportunity to go up there, we’re not shuttling him back and forth.”

Pawtucket’s starting rotation will consist of former New York Yankee Alfredo Aceves, who will start today, plus Triple-A rookie Kyle Weiland, Matt Fox, former Florida Marlin Andrew Miller and former Philadelphia Phillie Brandon Duckworth.

In 2009 with the Yankees, Aceves was 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA. But he missed most of last season with a back injury, then fractured a clavicle while riding a bicycle in December. Boston signed him to a free-agent contract after he was non-tendered by the Yankees.

“They told me in spring training I would be a starter,” said Aceves, who has worked primarily in long relief but did make spot starts with the Yankees. “For me, I love being a starter. I want to be the best. I’ll be focusing on the work and try to dominate.”

Pawtucket also has relievers with major league experience, most notably Hideki Okajima, whose ERA has increased each of the last four seasons. He had a 2.22 mark in 2007 — and a 4.50 average last year.

He’ll be joined by Scott Atchison, who appeared in 43 games with Boston, along with Rich Hill and former White Sox lefty Randy Williams.

So, there are veterans up and down the staff, with the exception of the closer. Enter Jason Rice, 24, who was Portland’s closer last season and has struck out 500 in 4572/3 career minor league innings.

“We have veteran guys with a lot of experience, but there wasn’t room for them (in Boston),” Beyeler said. “We’re fortunate in that they had options where we could get them down here.”