FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jose Iglesias basically attended a four-day seminar with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the offseason. If this exercise had been held with self-help guru Tony Robbins, Iglesias would have spent a fortune, but this was free, a chance to pick the brain of a former Most Valuable Player in an effort to find some morsel that will make him a regular major leaguer sooner rather than later.
“He gave me some great advice that I’m following through on,” said Iglesias, a 23-year-old shortstop. “I’m very close to Pedey and when he talks, I listen because he’s had to make adjustments in his career to get to where he is now. He understands what it takes and he understands because he didn’t start out so good in the big leagues, but he got better and now he’s the best.”
Pedroia’s talking points were: how to take care of your body, how to conduct yourself as a professional, and the steps that are necessary to make yourself a permanent major leaguer.
Pedroia used video and workout techniques to aide Iglesias, who had worked out with Alex Rodriguez a couple of years ago.
“We talked about a lot of things,” Pedroia said. “Just the way you take care of yourself. He’s gone through some injuries that have kind of kept him back a little. Last year he had a back issue. You’ve got to make sure you’re staying on your stuff. You’ve got to be in the weight room and training room. Got to make sure you’re taking care of your body and the injuries you can prevent, you prevent them.”
Iglesias’s offseason workouts had been helter skelter and it showed.
“I made sure I worked out [more] consistently,’’ the Cuban defector said. “I’d go Monday through Saturday and took Sunday off. I did that all winter. I just wanted to get stronger and take care of this back thing. I think I missed a month last year with it unfortunately. I just wanted to put myself in position to play 162 games if I had to and try to help this team.”
By the end of last season, the Red Sox front office still didn’t think Iglesias was ready for prime time. The Sox signed veteran Stephen Drew and general manager Ben Cherington already has declared him the starting shortstop in 2013, which leaves Iglesias returning to Pawtucket for more seasoning.
“I didn’t expect it but I can’t let that bother me,’’ said Iglesias. “I have to get better as a player and when I do, that’s when I’ll get my chance. I want to be the best I can be.”
Iglesias’s lack of offense has hindered his progress.
“That was one of the things I talked to him about,” Pedroia said. “He got to my house and we worked on our hitting. We watched some video that our video guy Billy [Broadbent] gives us on our at-bats and I showed him my at-bats in 2006 when I got called up and my first at-bats in 2007. I wasn’t using my strength. My best tools are my hand-eye coordination, but I was underneath the ball trying to hit home runs. When you’re trying to create power and doing something different you’re taking away from your natural ability.
“Seeing the ball good, standing tall, always on top — kind of like you’re playing pepper — and hitting the ball where it’s pitched — then your power comes. You get mistakes and you’re on time [with your swing] and that’s when you can generate power. I talked to him about that.”
Pedroia thinks the offense and being prepared as a major league player are areas Iglesias must focus on.
“There are things he can do with the glove that not a lot of guys can do,” Pedroia said. “There are probably five or six guys in the big leagues that can do what he can do. But part of that is learning the game. Just because you’re really good with the glove, you still have to understand the game and put yourself in the right position. You have to look at the errors you make and why you’re making them.
“He makes errors because he’s bored. He’s not moving his feet. So just make sure that every rep you take it’s not flashy but professional. Throwing with a backspin instead of sitting back and putting on a show for everybody. He understands that. He’s very smart. He learned English in a year.”
Pedroia’s hitting advice to Iglesias was to trust his natural instincts and tune out the distractions.
“He listens to everybody,” Pedroia said. “Some of that is good, but as a hitter if you listen to everybody then you have so many things in your mind. See the ball and hit it. Your hand-eye coordination is incredible, so just stop listening to eight hitting coaches and just let your natural ability take over.
“In 2007, everybody wanted to be the guy to turn it around for me and the only person who can do it is you,” Pedroia added. “A lot of people helped you get to the big leagues, but you’re the only one that can make you stay here.”
But now how do you keep Iglesias from getting down on himself facing another season, or part of one, at Pawtucket?
“He understands he has to get better,” said Pedroia. “It’s not going to be a case of go there and be miserable. He’s not gonna be a guy who’s gonna be like that. He can make huge steps and be a better player and then come here and be a good major leaguer.”
Just as Pedroia heard how small he was all his life, Iglesias has heard that he can’t hit to save his life. He hit .118 in 68 at-bats when he came up in September to play shortstop full time.
He’s hoping for better results on his next opportunity with the big club.
“I’ve put in a lot of work,” Iglesias said. “No pressure at all. I had a tough September. I take that as an experience. I have to learn from it. I know I’m going to improve my hitting the more experience I get. It will come. Something will click for me.”
Maybe it will stem from the four-day seminar with Pedroia.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.