Beckett impressed by Iglesias

March, 8, 2012

JUPITER, Fla. -- Josh Beckett had Alex Gonzalez playing behind him for seven seasons in Florida and Boston, so he’s not ready to crown Jose Iglesias the best defensive shortstop he’s ever seen.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett pitched three shutout innings in his second outing of the spring.
But Beckett, like many watching the Boston Red Sox this spring, is impressed. Iglesias added another highlight-reel play to his spring training resume in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the second inning, Iglesias scurried to his right, slid and stopped a sharply hit ground ball by Cardinals third baseman David Freese, then fired across the diamond for the out.

“That was a great play. That one ball was scalded,” Beckett said. “Yeah, he’s pretty sick. I can see why we gave him all that money.”

Iglesias, who was signed to a four-year, $8.25 million major league contract that included a $6 million signing bonus, still needs to prove he can hit major league pitching if he wants to move to Boston next month.

Consider Friday a step forward.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Iglesias sliced the first pitch he saw from right-hander Mitchell Boggs down the first-base line and into the Cardinals’ open-field bullpen in foul territory. His three-run triple tied the game at three.

Aside from that nicely struck, opposite-field grounder, Iglesias reached on a fielder’s choice and flied out twice. He finished 1-for-4 with three RBIs and a steal of third, and is now 2-for-7 this spring.

“He didn’t get results out of his second and third at-bats,” Valentine said, noting a steady breeze that withered more than a few fly balls. “But he took the first pitch, bases-loaded, got another fastball-in, didn’t overswing. His rhythm is getting close to being decent.”

At short, he’s already in tune. Aside from the putout of Freese, Iglesias snared a liner in the fourth and rifled to first, doubling off Cardinals left fielder Adron Chambers.

“He looks like he’s playing under control,” Valentine said, noting Iglesias’ quick exchange and alertness in handling pickoffs, bunt attempts and cutoffs. “He’s erasing some of the preseason reports -- trying to erase them. He hasn’t erased them yet.”

“He’s been great, man,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “He plays the heck out of defense. He’s learning a lot offensively. He’s going to be a good one.”

Beckett was pleasantly surprised that Iglesias had enough range to make the play on Freese. Pedroia, in his usual wisecracking manner, wasn’t ready to give the 22-year-old too much credit.

“I would have got to it,” said Pedroia, who has also drawn the young shortstop into a spring training fielding contest.

Other notes from Jupiter:

* Working on three days rest as per pitching coach Bob McClure, Beckett allowed two hits in three shutout innings. He had little trouble, getting seven of his nine outs on ground balls. He threw 30 pitches, 24 for strikes, and earned a no-decision. He has yet to allow a run this spring in five innings.

* Beckett called his breaking stuff “a work in progress.” As he did in his first outing, Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, Beckett threw a lot of changeups, but he mixed in more curveballs. He said his command on Thursday was “about the same” as last time.

“He looked OK for working on the things he wanted to work on,” Valentine said.

* One of Beckett’s misses, a fastball left over the middle of the plate, was laced for a double by Matt Holliday. It fell in the left-center gap, cut down by a steady breeze. “If the wind’s blowing out, I think that ball Holliday hit lands in St. Louis,” Beckett said.

* Beckett said his main concern is building arm strength. “A lot of the feel and stuff comes when your arm gets strong, and you can plus and minus -- you can throw a little harder or take something off.”

* Beckett did not appear to have any issue with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who caught the first three innings.

* Left-hander Felix Doubront allowed three hits, walked three and struck out two in two-plus innings. He worked in the low-90s but struggled with his command, throwing 24 strikes and 23 balls. The fifth-starter candidate was charged with two earned runs in the sixth when Cardinals designated hitter Matt Adams hit a bases-loaded triple.

"I thought he threw the ball extremely well until he got out of his rhythm,” Valentine said. “He wasn’t feeling good about his leg mechanics. I think he took the idea of slowing the game down a little ... literally.”

* Reliever Chris Carpenter took the loss in his spring debut. Carpenter worked a strong seventh in which he hit 95 m.p.h. with his fastball, but he walked in the go-ahead run in the eighth and surrendered four earned runs without recording an out. In total, he walked three batters, and threw 20 balls and 15 strikes.

“Just couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Valentine said of Carpenter.

* Possibly a scary flashback for Juan Carlos Linares. In the seventh, Linares pulled up lame at third on a double steal. Valentine said he turned his ankle on the play. While playing for Pawtucket last May, Linares tore ankle ligaments on a slide into second base, ending his season.

* Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer Jim Rice turned 59 Thursday.



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