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One day later, a look at how Jose Iglesias can avoid being replaced by a pinch-hitter

09.17.12 at 8:19 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Sunday afternoon might have been a first for some, but not Dave Magadan.

“I’ve seen it before, if you can believe that,” said the Red Sox hitting coach.

What Magadan was referencing was the instance in the Red Sox’ game against the Blue Jays in which manager Bobby Valentine chose to pinch-hit Daniel Nava for Jose Iglesias in the seventh inning ‘€¦ with the count sitting at 2-2. The result of the move — which was implemented after Pedro Ciriaco got into scoring position with a steal of second — was a groundout to second base by Nava.

But while Magadan did remember another occasion of the move taking place, that other time was 19 years before, when then-Seattle manager Lou Piniella pinch-hit Rich Amaral for Mike Blowers after Blowers failed to get down two straight bunt attempts.

“I got there in the middle of the summer and the guys were still talking about it,” remembered Magadan. “The funny thing was [Piniella] put a hit-and-run on and it worked.”

But nostalgia aside, the real topic of conversation regarding the decision, prior to the Red Sox’ series opener against the Rays, was how Iglesias would handle the situation. Valentine spoke with the rookie following the Sox’ loss Sunday, with Magadan sitting down with the shortstop prior to Monday night’s game.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Magadan said. “He’s a confident kid. He knows he has a lot to learn. He said all the right things when he was asked about it. We’ll make sure he’s in a good frame of mind the next time he plays. We all believe in him.”

Even with the steadied mindset, the incident offered a reminder of where Iglesias is at in regards to his progress as a major leaguer.

The 22-year-old entered Monday night just 2-for-28, having come off a Triple-A season in which he hit .266 with a .318 on-base percentage and .624 OPS. Iglesias had seemingly turned a corner heading through August with Pawtucket, but upon joining the Red Sox on Aug. 25 his plate appearances became sporadic, as did his production.

According to Magadan, the problem regarding Iglesias’ offense isn’t a mystery — he needs more time.

“A lot of what I saw when I saw him in spring training and last year when he was up a little bit, with him it’s hard to even get into the mechanics of his swing because for me it begins and ends with pitch selection,” the hitting coach said. “He needs to work on the recognition of pitches, and not only fastball to curveball, fastball to slider, but it’s fastball strike, fastball, ball. I think that’s just going to come with experience. He needs to play. He needs the experience of the at-bats and the grinding of the at-bat. The rhythm of the at-bat. He’s never played more than 100 or so games. He’s probably only got all told about two years of at-bats. For a kid who didn’t have a lot of experience when he was younger and came over I think the big thing is to get those at-bat experiences.

“We can go in the cage and we can work until we’re blue in the face and we can take batting practice, and mechanically he’s OK. He just has to understand whether to swing at this pitch, whether not to swing at this pitch, what am I looking for, am I recognizing what I’m looking for. Those are all things you gain that edge after having a lot of at-bats under your belt.”

Between the minors and majors, Iglesias has totaled 1,115 plate appearances as a professional, or — as Magadan pointed out — the equivalent of roughly two full big league seasons.

According to the infielder, even after the drama surrounding his exit from Sunday’s game, he understands the reality of his situation.

“No doubt, I was surprised. I was ready to hit,” he said of being replaced by Nava. “I was feeling pretty good at the time at the plate, especially yesterday. [Valentine] made that decision and I respected it. ‘€¦ He just told me he thought it was a good idea for the team and I respect that. I think it’s going to be alright.”

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