There’s been plenty of pressure on Jose Iglesias both times he’s been up with the Red Sox this season. And both times, he’s turned the tables.
Iglesias, who was sent back down to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this season despite hitting .450 (9-for-20), has picked up right where he left off since being recalled on May 24. As a result, the Red Sox will once again be forced to make a difficult decision when Will Middlebrooks returns from the disabled list, although the question this time around is far different.
Iglesias was sent back down during his last big league stint for a number of reasons. Stephen Drew was already anointed the starting shortstop, and the Red Sox really wanted to keep Pedro Ciriaco, who is out of options, for his versatility. In other words, the demotion wasn’t a knock on Iglesias. It was simply the most logical decision given the roster crunch.
The circumstances have since changed drastically, though. Ciriaco has struggled in the utility role for much of the year, and Drew and Middlebrooks have both seen their average hover around the Mendoza Line. All Iglesias has done is produce.
There was some concern about whether or not Iglesias could replicate his early-season success upon his call-up. The slick-fielding infielder hit .202 in 33 games in Pawtucket, and he was benched for a few games because of behavioral issues. But since returning to The Show, Iglesias has done everything imaginable to prove he deserves a major league roster spot going forward.
Iglesias entered Sunday’s series finale in the Bronx hitting .431 (22-for-51), and his on-base percentage sat at .455. He had three straight multi-hit games, giving him eight for the season. Some of the hits haven’t exactly been hit hard, but there comes a point when you simply throw your hands in the air and say, “the guy is getting it done.”
Plus, this success at the plate is just gravy. Iglesias’ bread and butter is still his defense, so even marginal offensive production would be tolerable. With him providing the same stellar glove work and hitting, it’s becoming very hard to find flaws in Iglesias’ game.
The big thing, however, is Iglesias’ increased versatility. Shortstop still figures to be Iglesias’ long-term position, but he worked on playing third base and second base while in Pawtucket so that he’d be ready for a situation like this. Since being called up, he’s played mostly third base, and he’s made the transition with ease. Natural talent has taken over, and no play proved that more than when he charged a ball in the eighth inning on Saturday, fielded it and then got rid of it about as quickly as you possibly can as an infielder.
The biggest indication yet that Iglesias is here to stay came from the manager himself.
“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role,” John Farrell said Saturday.
That may mean Ciriaco’s days are numbered, as having both players on the major league roster would be redundant and Ciriaco is out of options, meaning he’d have to pass through waivers before going down to Triple-A. If that’s the case, it’s because Iglesias can’t be held back any longer.
The real question, however, is no longer about whether or not Iglesias belongs in the majors. It’s a matter of how much playing time he’ll receive. Iglesias could become much more than a utility player if he keeps playing at a high level and Middlebrooks and Drew don’t step up. Perhaps that possibility will even light a fire under the two starters.
Iglesias has produced during two separate call-ups. There’s simply no way he should be forced to go through the whole process a third time.