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Sox send Iglesias down to Triple A

They’ll go with Aviles as starting shortstop

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Staff / March 28, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine came out of his office and poked his head into the Red Sox clubhouse at 9:13 Tuesday morning. The manager was looking for 22-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Time for a meeting.

In the NFL, they tell you, “Bring your playbook.’’

The Iglesias-as-starting-shortstop debate is over (for the time being). Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington met with Iglesias early Tuesday and told him he would be starting the 2012 season at Triple A Pawtucket. Valentine characterized the meeting as “emotional.’’

The club also optioned first baseman Lars Anderson to Pawtucket and reassigned pitchers Justin Germano and Doug Mathis and outfielder Josh Kroeger to minor league camp.

But the Iglesias move was the one that got everyone’s attention. The Red Sox starting shortstop position has been up for grabs since they traded Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to Colorado in January.

The demotion of Iglesias means that 31-year-old veteran Mike Aviles will open the season at shortstop for the Red Sox. The Aviles vs. Iglesias competition provided abundant speculation throughout the first five weeks of spring training. It was widely believed that Valentine wanted to start Iglesias over the protests of Cherington, but on Tuesday, Valentine sounded convinced that Iglesias is not ready.

“We decided it was best for him and this organization that he get some real regular at-bats and work a little more on the consistency of his swing and play,’’ Valentine said. “He’s working on things.

“About two weeks ago, he had a mechanic that looked like it was real functional, and I think an 0-for-3 took him out of it. That’s one of the things he has to develop - a confidence in his program.’’

Was there debate between Cherington and Valentine regarding Iglesias’s readiness for the big leagues?

“On Jose, there was never a debate,’’ said the manager. “I never even knew what side he was taking. And I don’t know if he ever knew what ‘side’ - if that’s what it was - I was taking.

“We spoke of both players and every day evaluated them. We had a staff meeting last night and it was pretty universal, everybody was on the same page.’’

Asked if he was “on board’’ with the decision, Valentine said, “Totally. I like to think it was partly my decision.

“It wasn’t that tough of a decision. Eventually things play themselves out and it’s easy to do the right thing.’’

When the manager was asked about Iglesias’s legendary range, he said, “I haven’t see that with my eyes. I’ve imagined it and I’ve read about it, but it’s been too small a sample.

“Practice is one thing. Games are another.’’

Iglesias is a career .261 hitter in 618 minor league at-bats. He batted .200 (5 for 25, four singles) in nine spring training games. He went 2 for 15 after coming back from a groin strain.

“It is difficult, but I think they know what they are doing,’’ said the Cuban prospect. “It was a tough decision for everybody. They made the decision to send me to Triple A to get me some ABs, and that’s what they think, and I agree with it.

“I come to the field every day to get better. I will go down there and play and get some good ABs.

“We’ll see. It’s just part of the process that everybody does when you’re playing baseball. That’s fine.’’

Does he think he’ll be back this year?

“I feel like I’m going to help this team win, one way or another,’’ he said. “I’m going to go back to Triple A and do my best. Hitting. Fielding. And we’ll see.’’

Aviles said he was told of the decision sometime over the weekend.

“I just stayed quiet and played baseball,’’ said the new starting shortstop.

“Mike didn’t do anything wrong, that’s for sure,’’ Valentine said. “He did most everything right. I’m very comfortable with him as our starting shortstop.’’

Aviles has played only 152 big leagues games at shortstop. He has also played second, third, and outfield.

“I’m happy, because I knew deep down that I could play short,’’ said the former Kansas City Royal. “It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity. I’m just fortunate to get an opportunity and I’m going to try to make the most out of it and help the team win.

“The bottom line is, this team is not about Mike Aviles. This team’s about the Boston Red Sox winning a championship, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Just do my part and help the team win any possible way.

“My pride is putting the uniform on every day. It’s great that I’m going to be out there Opening Day and be the starting shortstop, but my pride is coming to the ballpark and putting on this uniform. You think of all the people who’ve put this uniform on.’’

Valentine acknowledged that fans are likely to say, “Iglesias would have had it,’’ when Aviles fails to get to a grounder. Aviles said there is no extra pressure.

“It’s no different than any other day,’’ he said. “I’ve got to come to the park and perform, regardless. Whether I’m starting or sitting on the bench coming in in the fifth inning, I’ve got to be ready to play every day anyway. I prepare to play every day.’’

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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