Aviles wins shortstop job; Iglesias sent down
Red Sox prospect disappointed, vows to work to improve
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jose Iglesias is probably going to start many Opening Days for the Red Sox. However, the first one will not be in 2012.
Mike Aviles has won the shortstop competition and will be in the starting lineup when the Red Sox open their season in Detroit on April 5.
"I feel good. Iggy's a great ballplayer and he's going to be a great ballplayer, but it just so happens they sent him down to work on some things," Aviles said. "I wish him the best. I know he's going to be back at some point -- you know how that is. I came into camp, worked hard and I'm just happy the way things are."
Iglesias, a defensive star who is still rounding out his development offensively, was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday morning following an emotional discussion with manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington.
"It was [emotional] because we have tough decisions going on, but at the end of the day I can't control that," said Iglesias. "I'll get better. That's what I can control and that's what I will do."
Though it was tough to swallow for a competitor like Iglesias, by the time he spoke with reporters, he agreed that the Red Sox probably made the decision that is best for him.
"It's always difficult to hear the news, but I think they know what they're doing, what's best for my development, for my career, and we'll see what happens next," Iglesias said.
Iglesias is 22 years old and has accumulated just 618 Minor League at-bats, hitting .261 with one homer and 51 RBIs.
"At this time, we decided it was best for him and this organization that he gets some real regular at-bats and works a little more on the consistency of his swing and play," said Valentine. "He's working on things. About two weeks he had a mechanic that looked like it was real functional, and I think an 0-for-3 took him out of it. That's one of the things that he has to develop: confidence in his program."
Though Aviles hadn't called shortstop his primary position since 2008, he proved over and over again this spring that he is ready to play there again for Valentine and the Red Sox.
"There were a couple factors in what we were evaluating," Valentine said. "Mike just didn't do anything wrong, that's for sure. He did most everything right."
How comfortable is Valentine with Aviles as his starting shortstop? "Very comfortable," Valentine said.
Aviles has not only fielded his position, but has also hit well in camp, producing a .333 average in 45 at-bats entering Tuesday action.
"I'm happy. because I knew deep down I could play short," Aviles said. "It's just a matter of getting the opportunity. I'm just fortunate to get an opportunity and I'm going to try to help the team win.
"Bottom line, this team's not about Mike Aviles, this team's about the Boston Red Sox winning a championship and, I'm just a piece of the puzzle. That's what I'm trying to do: Be my piece, do my part and help the team win in any possible way."
Valentine continues to be amused that there were reports that he wanted Iglesias to be the shortstop, only to have resistance from the front office. In fact, the manager maintains that nothing could be further from the truth.
"Debate? I think we've had discussions every day on our team -- a couple of times on Jose. It was never a debate," Valentine said. "I never even knew what side [Cherington] was taking, and I don't know if he ever knew what side -- if that's what it was -- that I was taking [a side].
"We spoke of both players, every day evaluated them. And not only me and Ben, I mean as a staff. [The decision was reached at] a staff meeting last night, and I think it was a pretty universal. I wouldn't say 100 percent, but it was a group decision where everyone was on the same page."
Valentine doesn't think that Igelesias is that far away from being able to help the Red Sox.
"He's pretty close. I mean if something crazy happened tomorrow and Mike was traded for Greg Maddux, who's making his return or something, I think that Jose could be our shortstop," Valentine said. "He'd just have some more difficult developing days at the Major League level than I think he will at the Minor League level. It's real tough to sharpen your teeth with Major League pitching, as Frank Howard used to say."
With Carl Crawford set to start the season on the disabled list, the Red Sox might have been challenged to produce enough offense with Iglesias as the starting shortstop.
"Again, because the world isn't fair I dare say, if we had some games where the lineup wasn't scoring like they should, there would be a finger pointed right at the [shortstop position], and I don't think that's fair," Valentine said.
The Red Sox don't wonder if Iglesias will arrive. They just wonder exactly when it will happen.
"My message to him was the same one I gave [current first-base coach] Alex Ochoa 100 years ago, and that was, 'Just because God delays does not mean God denies.' He won't be denied," Valentine said. "That's what I believe. That's what Ben believes. It's not if -- it's when."