Jose Iglesias Has Golden Opportunity to Become Red Sox’ Opening Day Shortstop With Stephen Drew Sidelined

Jose IglesiasJose Iglesias was essentially handed a blank check at the tail end of the 2012 season. Iglesias had every opportunity to solidify himself as the front-runner for Boston’s 2013 starting shortstop job, but he couldn’t cash in on the opportunity, and the Red Sox ultimately decided to sign veteran Stephen Drew.

It looks like the 23-year-old still has the check, though, and he has a couple of weeks left to cash it in.

Drew is slated to be Boston’s starting shortstop this season when he returns from his concussion, which he suffered after taking a pitch to the helmet on March 7. Drew is still experiencing symptoms, however, and it’s becoming increasingly likely that he won’t be ready for the team’s season opener on April 1.

Even if Drew only misses a limited amount of time to begin the season — which is unclear given the unpredictable nature of concussions — Iglesias is among those with an opportunity to seize the interim starting gig. In order to win the job, he’ll need to continue showing developments offensively, although he’s been far more impressive this spring than he was while playing with the big club at the end of 2012.

Iglesias hit a putrid .118 (8-for-68) with just three extra-base hits and two RBIs in 25 games last season. That caused his stock to plummet, as there became a legitimate concern as to whether he would ever put it all together offensively. It’s still a concern, but Iglesias, who reported to camp having put on 15 pounds of muscle, has shown strides.

“The aggressiveness in the swing, and the hard contact, have shown up here in the times he’s been on the field,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Saturday’s game. “It’s been very encouraging.”

Iglesias went 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs in Saturday’s 9-2 victory over the Rays. The performance raised his average this spring to .237 (9-for-38), and he enters Sunday’s game with a home run, four doubles, a triple, five RBIs and five runs. His on-base percentage is still a subpar .275, but the increased pop has been obvious.

The thing about Iglesias is that his glovework is so stellar that he doesn’t need be a great hitter. In fact, as long as he can just hold his own in the batter’s box, he becomes an intriguing option based solely on his defensive aptitude. From that standpoint, there is reason to be optimistic about his play this spring.

Iglesias’ competition for earning a starting spot come Opening Day — if Drew isn’t ready — includes the likes of Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt.

Ciriaco has put together a solid spring, batting .333 (10-for-30) with five RBIs and three stolen bases, but he was scratched from Friday’s starting lineup because of back spasms. Any day he’s not in the lineup opens up more of an opportunity for Iglesias to put a stranglehold on the job.

Holt, meanwhile, has been relatively unimpressive at the dish, batting an even .200 (8-for-40), so Iglesias likely has a leg up on him at this point.

Even if Drew is unable to start the season, Iglesias isn’t going to have anything handed to him. He still holds that check, though, so it’s time to find a pen and fill that bad boy out.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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