BOSTON -- Jose Iglesias sparkled out of the gate this year, inciting a small debate as to who should be the team’s starting shortstop when Stephen Drew returned from a concussion. The Red Sox did not play along, shuttling a displeased Iglesias to the minors on April 10.
When third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit the disabled list in May and the organization eyed its limited depth at that position, the slick-fielding Iglesias quickly was pushed into that role. Again he has sparkled, and once again there is question as to how the team should handle him when Middlebrooks comes back, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
Manager John Farrell provided a hint Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park.
“We’re open-minded to keep [Iglesias] in that utility role, and until Will is ready to be activated with us, he’s getting his repetitions at third base,” Farrell said.
Middlebrooks is beginning a rehab assignment Tuesday as he recovers from a low back strain. Iglesias has hit .424 (14-for-33) in 10 games while filling in for Middlebrooks. He hit his second career homer Sunday in New York and has handled everything that has come his way in the field.
Iglesias will not supplant Middlebrooks at third base, but he’s proven that he belongs in the big leagues. While everyday play at the minor-league level is important for a developing player, Iglesias’ hot stretch -- as well as his confident demeanor -- has erased some of the organization’s concerns over him losing those regular reps. They may not be entirely necessary anymore.
“Players tell you when they’re ready and sometimes that doesn’t always work because of things that are out of their control, but Jose’s done an excellent job for us and with very limited action at third base he’s played it flawlessly,” Farrell said. “We have no hesitation at all on either position on the left side of the infield for him. As far as roster moves, we’ll address that as that time nears.”
If the Sox choose to keep Iglesias when Middlebrooks returns, the likely roster move would involve Pedro Ciriaco, who was a shaky option at third base before the organization tried Iglesias at third, previously an unfamiliar role for him.
Farrell added that Iglesias may see some practice time at second base. If he is to be the utility guy, he needs to be familiar with that position as well in the event that Dustin Pedroia needs a rare breather. Iglesias has never played second as a pro.
The 23-year-old has stunned some observers with his relatively gaudy offensive numbers since taking over for Middlebrooks. Adding to his hot start in place of Drew earlier this year, Iglesias enters Tuesday hitting .434 with one home run and five doubles in 16 games. Iglesias had a glut of infield hits early, but lately has mixed in more line drives and gappers.
While there has to be a drop-off at some point, Farrell continues to marvel at Iglesias’ approach.
“I think one thing is clear in Jose’s case is he’s not fazed or intimidated by the environment here,” Farrell said. “And that goes back to his belief in his own abilities. He’s benefited by balls finding their way in for base hits, but I think the most encouraging thing is when you look at the way he addresses things now. With the aggressiveness in the swing, it might not always result in a base hit but hard contact is frequent and with each passing day the confidence continues to grow.
“To predict that a guy that hits in the low .200s is going to come to the big leagues and be a low-.300 or mid-.300s hitter, that’s getting out on a limb a little bit. But he’s done a tremendous job.”
While Iglesias may lose his starting job by the weekend, he has seemingly cemented his spot on the major-league roster.