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Bobby Valentine on Jose Iglesias decision: ‘It’s not kindergarten here’

09.16.12 at 5:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox are at the stage of the season where wins and losses border on meaningless. The most important consideration for the team this month is the opportunity to evaluate players to help define roles heading into 2013.

Among the most important players being evaluated while receiving an opportunity to acclimate to the competition in the big leagues is shortstop Jose Iglesias. The 22-year-old has endured considerable struggles since his late-August promotion to the big leagues, having gone 2-for-28 (.071) with a .295 OPS. Still, this is a time when such struggles have no immediate consequence. He can go 0-for-50, with the Red Sox losing every remaining game of the season, and the only impact would be a) the fact that Iglesias would have the opportunity to become more accustomed to what big league pitching looks like; b) it would become clearer that he is not ready for the big leagues; and c) his confidence might take a hit in the short-term.

With the Sox duking it out with the Blue Jays for last place in the AL East, this is precisely the sort of time when teams ride out the struggles of their young players. That made a seventh-inning decision by manager Bobby Valentine in Toronto unexpected.

Iglesias was at the plate with Pedro Ciriaco on first and two out in a 0-0 tie in the top of the seventh inning. He took the first two pitches (ball, called strike), fouled off a 1-1 offering and then laid off a sharp 1-2 curveball from reliever Brandon Lyon on which Ciriaco stole second to put himself into scoring position.

With the count then even at 2-2, Valentine elected to pull Iglesias in favor of pinch-hitter Daniel Nava. Pinch-hitting, of course, is a tough gig — the average American League pinch-hitter has a .203 average, .287 OBP, .334 slugging mark and .621 OPS, compared to a league average line of .255/.320/.411/.731 — and the task of coming in to pinch hit with two strikes already elevates the degree of difficulty even more.

Still, Valentine felt that as well as starter Jon Lester had pitched to that point — he’d given up just one hit through six shutout innings — the right move was to lift Iglesias when Ciriaco got into scoring position.

“Just trying to get a run for Jon, obviously. I told Daniel, if we steal second, you got it. Otherwise, I was all set to play defense in a nothing-nothing game. Once a guy gets to second base, I figured take a shot on a base hit,” Valentine told reporters. “It’s tough. Jon’s pitching such a good game is what it is. You get him a run there and he wins a ballgame. He’s battling, too. It’s not about one guy. It’s about a whole group of guys.”

Nava grounded out to second on the first pitch he saw, ending the inning. Asked if he was concerned that Iglesias’ confidence might suffer after being lifted in the middle of his plate appearance, Valentine suggested he was not concerned.

“I was pinch hit for with the bases loaded and a 3-2 count. It didn’t ruin my confidence. I think he’ll get over it. I talked to him. He said, ‘Whatever’s right for the team,’ ” Valentine told reporters. “I did let him hit. He went up there. I think there’s a good balance there. [Lester has] just pitched 100 pitches trying to win a baseball game. There will be plenty of time. I don’t think that’s a make or break situation. He’s gotten one hit so far. He’ll get the opportunity to get some hits. It’s not kindergarten here.

“If you don’t think it was a good decision, so what,” Valentine added. “I think it was the right thing to do trying to win a game for a guy who’s busting his butt out there.”

For his part, Iglesias acknowledged that it was novel for him to be replaced in the middle of the at-bat, but he did not object to what Valentine elected to do.

“It’s pretty unusual, but he made a decision. He tried to do what’s best for the team, and I respect that decision,” Iglesias told reporters. “I was ready to hit. I had some good ABs today, did the best I could do. He made a decision, and I respect him.”

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