The 2013 season couldn’t have started any better for Jose Iglesias. With Stephen Drew still recovering from a concussion suffered in spring training, Iglesias was the Red Sox starting shortstop for the first week of the season and hit .450 in that span.
Then Drew came back for the second home game of the season and Iglesias was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket. Back in the minors, where he played 261 games before this season, things didn’t go as well. The 23-year-old was benched for a week with what was called “disciplinary reasons” in early May and in 33 games with the PawSox, Iglesias hit just .202 with six extra-base hits.
Last week Iglesias was recalled when Will Middlebrooks went on the disabled list. Despite never playing a single inning at third base prior to some pre-game work and one minor league game last week, Iglesias was immediately inserted into the starting lineup at third base Friday night.
“Talking with [PawSox manager] Gary DiSarcina, it just felt like [Iglesias] took to the position naturally,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s a very instinctual player. He’s got very good reactions and reflexes, and that’ll be the case more at third base than being back in the middle of the infield where he’s got a little more time to get the pace and the speed of the ground ball.”
His impact was immediately felt as he went 4-for-7 in his first two games and played flawless defense in the field, showcasing his spectacular glove.
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“I feel comfortable here, I feel really comfortable here,” Iglesias said. “This is just a game so you go out there and play.”
Hitting considerably better in the majors compared to the minors, Iglesias offered up why this may be, but the answer may not be quite what fans or the organization would expect or want.
“You have motivation here to win the game,” Iglesias said of playing in the majors. “We have a reason to play for the fans, the team and organization. Down there it is a little more difficult. You still want to win and do your best, but you go to the field and see three people in the stands in the cold weather, it’s kind of tough and you have to push yourself a little harder.”
Prior to last week Iglesias was just a shortstop, but then began taking ground balls at every infield position besides first base and playing in games at third base. Could this mean a new role for the coveted Red Sox prospect?
The Red Sox clearly lack organizational depth at third base and utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco hasn’t been anywhere near what he was last season. In 22 games he’s 11-for-45 (.244), but even more alarming is his defense, as he’s made seven errors in 111 innings between shortstop and third base.
When Middlebrooks comes back, likely June 8, the Red Sox will be faced with another roster decision. Do they send Iglesias back to the minors, or do they part ways with Ciriaco, who is out of options and would need to be released?
After a start better than most predicted, and right there with the top teams in the American League, the Red Sox’ focus is now winning games. Although Iglesias has never been a utility player before, this might be the Red Sox’ biggest need, especially with Middlebrooks off to a rough start (.201 batting average).
All things considered, Iglesias might be here to stay, just not in the starting shortstop role some predicted following last season.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84