Jose Iglesias and Yasiel Puig grew up together on
the Cuban junior national team, serving as the Nos. 2 and 3 hitters together
five years ago.
So even though Iglesias was disappointed not to earn an All-Star berth yesterday, he was thrilled for Puig, the Dodgers phenom who was one of five players selected for the final fan vote in the National League.
"Special," Iglesias said. "He's a special player with a lot of talent. We played together on the Cuban national team like five years ago. I was hitting second and he was hitting right behind me. He's a pretty special player. He's always been a pretty good player."
Puig was a controversial selection in some circles, because he had only appeared in 30 games when the All-Star rosters were announced yesterday. But he has made the most of his month, hitting .420 with eight homers in just 119 at-bats entering yesterday.
Those numbers aren't much better than Iglesias'. The defensive whiz entered last night's game against the Los Angeles Angels hitting .410 in 144 at-bats while playing flawless defense at shortstop. Iglesias was asked if even earning All-Star consideration was an honor in itself.
"It's good to talk about it, but it doesn't surprise me," he said.
"Because I know what I can do on the field," he said.
Puig is considered a bit of a mystery, which Iglesias chalks up to the reality of life in his home country.
"Like every Cuban player," he said. "In Cuba, you don't have the chance to come over here and show people what you can do."
Uehara in final five
The Red Sox All-Star contingent may increase by one shortly. Closer Koji Uehara is one of five AL relievers up for the final All-Star spot, which will go to the player who receives the most votes online.
Other relievers up for consideration are Joaquin Benoit (Tigers), Steve Delabar (Blue Jays), David Robertson (Yankees) and Tanner Scheppers (Rangers).
"I'm of course happy, but it's not like I've already been chosen," said the gregarious Uehara, who began the night 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and five saves. "When I actually get chosen, I'll probably explode with excitement."
Uehara joked that he's "not popular" in Japan, which has traditionally turned out in full force to vote for its favorite players, and added that he had been planning to "book some tee times" during the All-Star break.
It came late in Friday's win over the Angels, when much of New England was asleep, but Mike Napoli did indeed homer.
The Red Sox first baseman, who got off to such a slugging start over the season's first two months, hadn't homered in over a month, a drought covering 86 at-bats and dating back to June 1.
But there was no doubt about his blast in the ninth inning on Friday, which landed halfway up the grassy knoll in center field.
"It feels good, but I don't feel like I'm there yet," Napoli said. "It's something to build on and just keep going. It's at-bat to at-bat. Sometimes I feel really good, and sometimes I don't. I'm just going to keep grinding. Usually when I do that, it comes."
Napoli has worked tirelessly to fix a timing flaw that had left him with a long swing, which made it tough to catch up to even mediocre fastballs.
"For me, it's getting my foot down," he said. "It's a timing thing. I can be short to the ball when I'm on time. When I'm late, my swing might look long, because I'm trying to rush to get to the ball. Just working on my leg kick and being on time with the pitcher."
Diaz down, Holt up
The Red Sox made a minor roster move, sending infielder Jonathan Diaz to Triple-A Pawtucket and summoning infielder Brock Holt, who was penciled in to start at third base last night. Holt might have gotten here sooner, but a strained oblique kept him on the shelf until recently.
"It's tough when you miss an opportunity," Holt said. "But missed opportunities allow other opportunities. Having Jonathan get to come up here and get in a few games and experience this was awesome for me. I sent him a text message, 'Man, I almost shed a tear whenever I found out you were coming up.' He worked so hard, great player, great teammate, so for him to be able to come up here and do that was something cool to see. Think all the guys in Triple A were happy about him getting the call up." . . .
With a leadoff single, Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 16 games. . . .
Holt wasted little time making his presence felt, recording a sacrifice fly in the second and adding a nice tag on J.B. Shuck at third to complete a 9-5 double play from right fielder Shane Victorino in the fifth. . . .
Every member of the lineup contributed at least a run, hit or RBI last night.
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