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Tim Bogar: Jose Iglesias vs. Mike Aviles ‘a tough decision’

03.24.12 at 12:26 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar has a unique perspective on potential shortstops Mike Aviles and Jose Iglesias.

Bogar spent the previous two seasons as the Red Sox infield coach. And so, he worked extensively with Iglesias in spring training in both 2010 (the young shortstop’s first in the United States after his defection from Cuba) and 2011. And after the Sox acquired Aviles in a trade with the Royals just prior to last year’s trade deadline, Bogar spent the final two months of the season cleaning up the infielder’s footwork in an effort to get him back to speed at the position where he initially made his mark in the majors in 2008, but that he hadn’t played on an everyday basis since that rookie campaign.

And so, Bogar’s view of the question of which one should start the season as Sox shortstop is based on having worked with both players as extensively as any single person in the organization. That being the case, his confident outlook bodes well for the team.

“You know what? It is a tough decision but it’€™s one of those things where we’€™re lucky we have two guys who can play it and two guys who can play it well,” said Bogar. “Whatever decision that’€™s going to be, we’€™re going to be fine.”

In some ways, the outcome of the decision is secondary to the fact that a) there is a choice to be made and b) both players have put themselves in position for consideration. Most significantly, Bogar has seen progress in both players an ability to improve.

With Iglesias, the improvement is most evident offensively and in terms of his overall comportment. Given that offense represents the biggest question mark about the 22-year-old’s game, Bogar’s portrayal of a player who is in a dramatically different place than when he started his pro career was noteworthy.

‘€œI think he’€™s more mature. I think that’€™s going to continue to improve,” said Bogar. “His confidence level is completely different this year than it was last year. Both sides of the ball. I think defensively he’€™s always felt like he belongs here. Offensively, this spring, up to this point, he believes he belongs here offensively and that’€™s something I hadn’€™t seen for the last two years.

“Mechanically, he looks a lot better this spring,” Bogar added. “He’€™s hit the ball with more force all spring compared to last year and the year before. He’€™s maturing. He’€™s getting older. You can start seeing things happening. It’€™s only going to go forward, in my opinion.”

At the same time, while Bogar believes that Iglesias’ glove is big league ready right now, he noted that as spectacular as he can be defensively, there is still room for improvement as the shortstop learns the nuances of positioning and opposing hitters.

“Once he knows the league and things that are going on with it, he’€™s going to be a better shortstop. How that happens depends on his playing time and what goes on there,” said Bogar. “If he doesn’€™t make this team and has to go to Triple-A, that’€™s one of the emphasis’€™s I’€™m sure he’€™s going to want to do. He’€™s going to have to pay attention to those details.’€

As for Aviles, Bogar praised him for “[making] adjustments really quick,” specifically noting how his backhand — an issue when he joined the Sox — has been fixed in a short span of time. Overall, Bogar suggested, Aviles looks more like a shortstop now than he last season.

“Mike, when he came over here last year, we worked on a lot of things. A lot of it was just getting used to playing the position again,” said Bogar. “When he got over here, there was some mechanical things he needed to clean up with his feet and his throwing. It all kind of worked together. And he improved a lot by the end of last year.

“So, this spring, when he came in, I think his attitude because of Scutaro getting traded an all that, his attitude toward the position has been great. He’s been working extremely hard at it, very open to suggestions. What I’ve seen of him has been nothing but positive. He’s made all the plays. He knows where he’s supposed to be. I think he’s comfortable with [Dustin Pedroia] at second base, and I think the pitchers are comfortable having him play there.”

OTHER NOTES:

– Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is in the Red Sox lineup against the Phillies in Fort Myers, two days after he left a game after being hit on the forearm by a pitch. That Pedroia avoided serious injury represents a significant source of relief to the Sox.

“As soon as I saw him get hit, he usually doesn’t react like that. It’s usually, run down to first base right away. Concern obviously goes in your mind,” said Bogar. “But I texted him after the game just to find out, and he said, ‘I can play tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re going to take tomorrow off and start again today.’ Any time anybody gets hit like that, especially a guy that has an impact on the team like he does, there’s concern.”

Alfredo Aceves is scheduled to throw six innings against the Phillies on Saturday in a split-squad game, with Felix Doubront slated to do the same across the state in Jupiter, Fla., against the Marlins. Bogar suggested that he sees in Aceves the ability to thrive in either the rotation or bullpen.

“He’€™s a special individual. No matter what he does, what role you put him into, he can morph into it,” said Bogar. “If you want him to start, he can start for you. If you want him to close, he can close. That’€™s my opinion. Whatever you ask him to do, he’€™s going to rise to that challenge. He knows that he can do those things. All of us know he can do those things.”

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