BOSTON — The Red Sox might have a friendly competition on their hands.
Jose Iglesias was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket when Will Middlebrooks was placed on the 15-day disabled list. John Farrell immediately penciled Iglesias into his starting lineup at third base on Friday, and that may have sparked something in utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco.
Iglesias and Ciriaco went step-for-step at the bottom of Boston’s order on Saturday, as each collected three hits while helping the Red Sox pick up a 7-4, come-from-behind win.
Ciriaco drove in Iglesias with an RBI single in the second inning. Iglesias doubled in a run in the fourth inning. Both were at the center of Boston’s game-tying rally in the sixth inning. And Ciriaco started off the Red Sox’ big four-run eighth inning with a one-out double.
“You can’t say enough about the day both [Ciriaco] and Iggy had at the end of the lineup all day,” Farrell said. “They made some huge contributions today offensively and we started to just chip away.”
The combined 6-for-8 effort from Ciriaco and Iglesias out of the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the order was a surprising display of offense. Iglesias’ big league average this season now sits at .481, but the knock on him has always been his offensive potential. And Ciriaco, while capable of handling the bat, has been swinging at everything lately and entered the game with a .175 average.
Both players had their moments in this one, and it might not be a coincidence. While Iglesias was the logical choice to be called up in Middlebrooks’ absence, the move also put some pressure on Ciriaco. Ciriaco’s biggest asset is his versatility, but with Iglesias suddenly shifting around the diamond, it’s no longer irreplaceable.
Ciriaco has had a rough season — both at the plate and in the field — so he needs to play well over the next couple of weeks to solidify his roster spot. Likewise, Iglesias is trying to prove he belongs at the major league level. The easiest decision when Middlebrooks is healthy enough to return would be to send Iglesias back to Triple-A, as the Red Sox can simply option him to the minors whereas Ciriaco is out of options. But if Iglesias plays like he did during his last go-round in Boston, it’ll be hard to justify sending the 23-year-old back down, especially given the shaky season Ciriaco has had to date.
Essentially, Ciriaco is playing to keep his job, while Iglesias is trying to prove he deserves the major league utility role when Middlebrooks returns. It’s a friendly competition, and until a decision needs to be made, the Red Sox stand to benefit from it.
“They played great, both of them,” fellow infielder Dustin Pedroia said following Saturday’s win. “When you add the speed too, they turn the lineup over and give the top of the order a chance to drive in runs and that’s real good for our offense.”
We might not see huge offensive performances from either Iglesias or Ciriaco too often, but they could come more frequently now that the stakes have been raised for each player.