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Jose Iglesias has played in 288 games for the Red Sox, most of them in the minors, since signing in 2009. Arnie Beyeler has been his manager for all but 42 of those games.
Their relationship started in 2010 when Iglesias was assigned to play for Beyeler with Double A Portland. It continued with Triple A Pawtucket the last two seasons.
“This is a guy I know pretty well,” Beyeler said Friday before the Red Sox played the Orioles at Fenway Park. “I’ve been with him for a while.”
It’s not up to Beyeler to decide when Iglesias is ready to be the everyday shortstop for the Red Sox. But that time, he said, is drawing near.
“I don’t know that he’s going to be a .300 hitter. But he’s going to produce and he’s going to get on base,” Beyeler said. “Pitchers are going to want him behind them, too, because of his defense. It’s only a matter of when that happens.”
It is an opinion that comes with some weight behind it. Beyeler played for Wichita State before spending six seasons as a middle infielder in the Tigers organization.
In the last 21 years, Beyeler has worked as an amateur scout, a minor league manager, and a minor league coach. He has managed the last nine years in the Red Sox farm system and this season led Pawtucket to the International League championship.
Iglesias hit .266 with a .624 OPS in 88 games for Pawtucket this season. But Beyeler said those statistics were not indicative of his value to the lineup.
“Jose hit .300 the last month before he got called up, he barreled balls up and drove the ball well,” Beyeler said. “He really swung the bat well this year throughout, but the numbers didn’t show it. He finally got a few to fall the last month.”
Beyeler said that Iglesias was a helpful player at the plate.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I was with him all year long and he worked hard and did a good job every day. He had productive at-bats. He was moving runners over, that kind of stuff. He had a lot of hard outs. His confidence kept going up and he did what he needed to do.”
That has yet to translate to the majors. Iglesias was called up Aug. 25 and was 2 for 35 with 10 strikeouts before going 3 for 4 with a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night.
The home run, a line drive to left field, was the first of his career.
“It was tough to turn on the TV and watch the at-bats he was having because that wasn’t the guy that got here,” Beyeler said. “He is better than that. His confidence wasn’t there. That home run was good to see because he’s capable of that.”
Expectations are high for Iglesias because the Red Sox signed him to a four-year contract worth $8.25 million when he defected from Cuba in 2009. But he is only 22 with three years of professional experience in the United States.
“People forget a lot of things [in the majors] because it’s all about production. That fact that you’re up here means you have to put it together,” Beyeler said.
“Jose is not as consistent as you would like. But it was better this year and, again, you’re dealing with an inexperienced guy. He’s going to get better with more reps. With Iggy, it’s just time.”
Beyeler believed Iglesias could be a new version of Omar Vizquel, a superior defender who became gradually more effective at the plate as his career progressed.
Vizquel hit .230 with a .290 on-base percentage in his first three seasons in the majors. He hit .282 with a .349 OBP in the 15 seasons that followed.
“Jose gets better at everything every day,” Beyeler said. “He comes to the ballpark and gets his work done and he takes care of himself away from the field. He’s always working. He’s going to get there.”
Beyeler feels the same way about 25-year-old rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway, a good hitter who needed to improve his defense.
“He did a lot of work on his own over the winter to lose some weight and work on his agility. It paid off for him,” Beyeler said. “His feet were a lot quicker, his throws were quicker [and] his blocking was much improved. He improved a lot.”
Lavarnway has caught 102 games this season. That alone, Beyeler feels, will speed his development.
“All those games are huge,” he said. “Just from going through the grind and staying in shape and working with the pitchers. You have to go out there some days when you don’t feel so good, but that’s what big league catchers have to do.
“That’s part of developing and until you do that, you don’t know anything about it. He’s doing all the things you want to see.”