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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Some perspective on Iglesias

By Gordon Edes

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A little perspective on Jose Iglesias. And please: The shortstops cited are not intended to suggest Iglesias will ever be in the class of any of these players. They are intended to underscore how Iglesias’ road to the big leagues compares to the ones they took.

Jose Iglesias
John Farrell thinks we'll see an improved Jose Iglesias at the plate this spring.
Ozzie Smith was 23 when he became an everyday player in the big leagues. He was promoted after just 68 games in low-A ball. After seven seasons in the big leagues, his batting line was .238/.311/.298/.609, but in an era when teams expected little offense from their shortstops, Smith was by that time a four-time All-Star and winner of five Gold Gloves.

Omar Vizquel was 21 when he made his debut in the big leagues. He signed with the Mariners when he was 17, and had 1,695 plate appearances in the minors before he was promoted. In his first three seasons in the big leagues, he posted a cumulative batting line of .230/.290/.283/.572. But at 26, he started to hit, and won the first of what would be nine straight Gold Gloves.

Rey Ordonez, like Iglesias a Cuban defector, was 25 when he made his big-league debut, after just two seasons in the minors.

Derek Jeter made his big-league debut at age 20 and became an everyday player at 21. But that was after 2,009 plate appearances in the minors, and back-to-back OPS marks of .873 and .816 before he made it.

Iglesias just turned 23 in January. He made his big-league debut in 2011. He was clearly marked as the shortstop of the future last spring, some even arguing that he should be given the job over veteran Mike Aviles. The timetable appeared to be 2013 at the latest, until Iglesias struggled mightily in a 25-game exposure to the big leagues last season, batting .118. The biggest indignity came when Bobby Valentine lifted him for a pinch-hitter with two strikes.

After that, the Sox reached out and signed free agent Stephen Drew.

“We felt like we needed a more known commodity from the offensive side,’’ manager John Farrell said Thursday. “that’s what brought Stephen to us."

Iglesias has 1,076 plate appearances in the minor leagues, or just over half of what Jeter had. The sand in the hourglass is a long way from running out. That said, Iglesias apparently doesn’t have the luxury that Ozzie and Omar had bygone days, when a magician’s hands were enough to earn a shortstop full-time employment.

“We’ve had discussions with him,’’ Farrell said. “Sat down in this camp, acknowledging Stephen’s addition. The thing a young player always has to battle [is] his time frame and the organization’s time frame; they may not always align. This is a case in point in that.’’

Farrell said he already has seen a difference in Iglesias at the plate.

“He’s a little more narrow in his base,’’ Farrell said. “He’s a little more upright. It’s allowed him to see the ball better and I really think freed up his swing. He got deep into his crouch over time, [and] I think it caused him to work against his body a little bit.

“The fact that he’s upright in his stance, he feels like he’s able to hit the ball with a little more authority wherever it’s pitched in the zone. We’re looking forward to seeing that play out here.’’

Iglesias did not work with the first-team infield in the early days of camp. He was placed with the two kids, Deven Marrero and Xander Bogaerts. Drew was starting Thursday’s exhibition against Northeastern. Brock Holt, bidding for a utility spot, was starting at short in the second game, against Boston College.

No one is speculating whether he should make the big-league club. He is ticketed for a return to Pawtucket, where former shortstop Gary DiSarcina will be in his first season as PawSox manager.

“The one thing you like is that he believes in himself,’’ Farrell said. “He feels like he’s ready to be an everyday major league player, but yet some of the adjustments we talked about at the plate, he’s doing the necessary things to bring along the offensive side and see how that continues to develop.’’