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Jose Iglesias says he was surprised but not disappointed by Stephen Drew signing

02.12.13 at 10:07 am ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — This was an important offseason for Jose Iglesias.

The 23-year-old, who signed a four-year, $8.25 million major league deal with the Red Sox in 2009 shortly after his defection from Cuba, is entering his fourth season of professional baseball, and the last in which he has minor league options. To date, the shortstop has shown utter defensive brilliance and some signs of offensive promise, albeit on an unsustained basis.

Last year, for instance, he hit .266 with a .318 OBP, .306 slugging mark and .624 OPS in Triple-A Pawtucket. However, he had his best two months of his professional career, hitting .341/.364/.427/.790 in May and .329/.402/.397/.800 in August. But those two months bookended a two-month stretch in which Iglesias produced at far lower levels, in no small part because he missed almost all of June with a lower back injury and struggled to regain his timing in his return to the lineup in July.

It marked the third straight year in which physical setbacks had limited the amount of time Iglesias had spent on the field. Though he ended up playing a career-high 115 games between the minors and majors, Iglesias understands that he must show the ability to withstand the rigors of a full six- (or, assuming October baseball, seven-) month season if he is to advance his career.

It was with that concept in mind that Iglesias tried to push himself this offseason while working out in Florida and, for a few days, in Arizona with teammate Dustin Pedroia. At a still-young stage of his professional career, he’s trying to find the routine that can allow him to be on the field more consistently and thus more consistent in his production.

“It was a great offseason. I’m so happy to have that offseason,” said Iglesias, whose upper body is noticeably bigger after an offseason that saw him gain eight pounds (he suggests he weighs around 185 pounds now, up from about 160 when he signed). “[Pedroia] gave me some advice how to work every single day consistently. That’s exactly what I did. Physically, now, I see some big changes. I’m really happy where I’m at. I learned a lot [about what it takes to play a full season] last year. Especially in September, when I got a chance to play here almost every day. Last year is over. We learned from it to get better in 2013.”

Of course, Iglesias struggled in the big leagues last year, at least offensively. While his dazzling defensive abilities were plainly apparent, he hit just .118/.200/.191/.391, and though he hit his first big league homer, his most memorable moment at the plate came when former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine pinch-hit for him with a 2-2 count.

Still, as much as Iglesias struggled in September, he suggested that the experience of playing everyday was constructive.

“I got a little taste to see what you need to improve, what you’ve got to do to help this team win ballgames,” said Iglesias. “It was a tough moment last year for us, but we learned from it — especially me, myself. I think this year I prepared myself to be in a good position and to have that experience.

“I think every year, I’m growing as a player, growing as a human being, growing as a man. So I’ve got a better idea of what I’ve got to improve, a better idea of what I have to do to be a better player. It was big for me. I only played about a month, 60 ABs, so I don’t really think about that. I take the opportunity to learn and experience, that was my goal. It was not my goal to hit .300 in September. It was my goal to learn something everyday. So, I think it was a good September — even if I didn’t have great numbers, I did my best everyday and I take that experience to this year.”

Still, in all likelihood, Iglesias will be taking that experience with him to Triple-A Pawtucket. Though the Red Sox were open to the idea of using Iglesias as their everyday shortstop in 2013, when the team was able to sign Stephen Drew to a one-year, $9.5 million deal, it was with the idea that he would start in the big leagues, with Iglesias destined to get more seasoning in the minors.

Iglesias suggests that he was caught off guard by the signing of Drew, but he was “not at all” upset by it.

“That surprised me because I was looking on the computer and I found out that way. But after that, that’s fine. Whatever works for the team,” said Iglesias. “Whatever helps this team win ballgames, that’s why we’re here — to make this team better and to get better here everyday.”

Iglesias said he took to heart the advice of Pedroia, who relayed to the shortstop his distress in 2006 when the Sox traded for Mark Loretta, thus relegating Pedroia to a return to Pawtucket for most of 2006. Pedroia ended up using that time productively, recovering from a slow start to put together a strong season, a harbinger of the trajectory taken in his Rookie of the Year campaign of 2007.

“It’s almost the same history, same experience,” Iglesias said of the parallels with Pedroia’s situation. “I talked to him everyday. He told me to keep working hard. That’s what you can control to get better. That’s all I can do. That happened to me, an offseason where I did all my work. Next year, a lot of good things are going to happen if you put in the work.”

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