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Sox put Iglesias on alert with Scutaro hurt

5/8/2011

BOSTON--The shortstop of the future has just had his timetable adjusted.

Jose Iglesias is on his way to Boston from Scranton, Pa., where the Pawtucket Red Sox are playing this weekend, because the Red Sox are not certain of the availability of veteran Marco Scutaro and do not want to go into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Twins without a backup for Jed Lowrie.

Scutaro was lifted from Saturday's game against the Twins in the eighth inning because of an injury on his left side, possibly in the rib cage area. His departure for pinch-hitter J.D. Drew left the Sox in the rare position of having to sacrifice their DH, since Kevin Youkilis, who began the game as DH, entered the game at third as Jed Lowrie moved from third to short to take Scutaro's place. At the time, the score was still 2-0, though the Sox tacked on two more runs to take a 4-0 lead into the ninth. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, who entered in the top of the ninth, was listed to bat. Papelbon has never hit in the big leagues, but made it moot by setting down the Twins in order.

Enter Iglesias. After collecting three hits in Pawtucket's 7-6 win over Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' Triple-A farm team Saturday afternoon, the 21-year-old Cuban defector left the club to fly to Boston, and is expected to be in the Sox clubhouse Sunday morning. Will he play? That is still to be determined, though a club source said late Saturday night that he is "likely" to be activated, depending on the medical evaluation of Scutaro's status Sunday morning.

Which raises the question: Is he ready to play? Defensively, that is not an issue. Even though he is in just his second season of pro ball in the U.S. after signing a four-year, $8.25 million contract with Boston in Sept. 2009, Iglesias has been widely praised for his extraordinary skills in the field, especially his lightning-quick hands. This past winter, Iglesias lived in Miami and worked out with both Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Scutaro, both of whom were effusive in their praise. Is he Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel? Let's let him play in the big leagues first before we get carried away.

Offensively, however, he remains a work in progress. He finished the month of April in Pawtucket with a .227 average and no extra-base hits, and under ordinary circumstances probably wouldn't have been Boston's first choice to call up. The more logical candidate was Yamaico Navarro, who plays third and short and was batting .329 for the PawSox until straining an oblique muscle last week. Navarro was placed on the 7-day DL on Saturday, leaving an opening for Iglesias.

Iglesias's three hits Saturday raised his average for the month of May to .333 (7 for 21) and his overall average to .253, though his overall batting line remains abysmal: .278 on-base percentage, .253 slugging percentage, and .531 OPS (on base plus slugging). Clearly, he remains a work in progress as the Sox try to refine his approach at the plate: All 22 of his hits this season have been singles, and he has walked just twice while striking out 17 times. Those kind of numbers raise concerns that he could be another Rey Ordonez in the making, another Cuban shortstop whose weak bat overshadowed his good glove and short-circuited his big-league career with the Mets.

It's way too early to make that judgment, though it is all but certain Iglesias's stay in the big leagues will be a short one. This time. But for a player who left his mother back in his native Cuba to pursue his ambition of playing in the big leagues, Mother's Day will represent a start.