|An infield coach’s first glimpse of Iglesias||02.21.10 at 9:44 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first days of spring training are usually defined by routine: the familiar sound of ball and bat, the placid sight of a bullpen session.
In that context, flash stands out. And thus it is that Jose Iglesias, in the first day of official Red Sox workouts on Saturday, dazzled.
Iglesias was signed by the Sox to a four-year, $8.25 million major league deal over the summer. While some teams were surprised that the price went that high, there was at least one team — the Cubs — that, according to multiple baseball sources, was willing to pay even more to acquire the 20-year-old, who instead decided to sign with a Boston organization that had been his favorite American team while growing up.
While one should never get carried away with the first sights of spring training — especially since games have yet to begin — it is not difficult to see why teams became so enamored with the native of Cuba. Iglesias’ first day of infield drills drew plenty of attention. One interested onlooker was Sox infield coach Tim Bogar, who was intrigued to see whether the reality of the shortstop’s defense might be anywhere near the reputation.
“My first impression is how calm he is, how mechanically sound he is. Even though he’s capable of doing above-average type of stuff, he’s very mechanically sound, which makes every ball seem easier, playing the hops,” said Bogar. “He intrigues you with just how simple it looks. He does things that are second nature to him that we have to try to figure out. It’s interesting to see. He’s beyond his years fielding-wise, being able to get himself in the right position. That’s the first impression. Obviously, I haven’t seen how things happen in a game. It’s the second day. But I’m very impressed with how he goes about his business, his work ethic.”
But Iglesias demonstrates more than just a precocious professionalism. He also shows stand-out abilities with certain aspects. During the Rookie Development Program in Boston in January, Iglesias extensively with an instructor to practice glove-to-base flips, not bothering to transfer the ball to his hand. On Saturday, Bogar saw how the practice paid off.
“I had heard all these stories about how good he is with his hands, flipping the ball. There was a ball that was hit, he flips to second base with his glove and it was perfect. It was kind of a slow roller, about 15 feet from second base,” said Bogar. “I don’t like comparing guys to other guys. It’s not fair to them. But I came up with Rey Ordonez. Unbelievable hands. He reminded me a lot of Rey, who I spent a lot of time with.”
Bogar knows whereof he speaks. Bogar came up in the Mets system, and so he spent plenty of time watching Ordonez after he signed with the Mets after leaving Cuba. The two were both in the New York organization from 1993-96, and Bogar was captivated by the three-time Gold Glover.
“I was a defensive type of player, so I loved guys like that. So I was always intrigued about how he went about it. He was just as smooth as can be. He was the one who kind of brought the sliding backhand in at short,” said Bogar. “Because Rey was so athletic, he did things that normal guys, we’d need buttons in a video game to try to do. So, I’m interested to see how this progresses this spring, see [Iglesias] play games. He’s exciting to watch. He kind of gives you a, ‘Wow.’”
Certainly, that is the case in something as routine as infield drills, where Iglesias exudes an obvious love for the game. Bogar noted that in the five rounds of batting practice on Saturday, Iglesias stayed at short to work on his craft for the four groups in which he was not hitting. And then, there are the tricks — the shortstop will do things like bounce the ball off the back of his glove a couple of times before firing it to second.
“Guys like him, Rey Ordonez, guys like that – they get bored with regular groundballs,” said Bogar. “It’s like you and me drinking a cup of coffee, and they want a latte or an espresso. He keeps himself working at those other plays.”
Of course, none of the tricks in the world will matter. A dunk contest winner does not an MVP make. And so, while there is a ‘wow’ factor to initial sightings of Iglesias, Bogar notes that it is important to focus on the bottom line.
“I don’t want him to lose [the tricks]. The bottom line is, can I make the right turn into the dugout? He’s got to have his own style and his own flash, but there’s a line where you want to get to with that. You don’t want to become all flash and show. We need outs. He gets that, too,” said Bogar. “He’s very into it. You can tell he wants to learn. His mind is wide open right now. Talking to [minor-league infield instructor] Gary DiSarcina about how quickly he adjusts, he wants to improve. Hopefully I’m going to see that soon.”
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