Jose Iglesias is making his first career appearance at third base on Tuesday. (AP)
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — It’s been well over a month since Jose Iglesias was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket after his tremendous start to 2013 as a fill-in for Stephen Drew. Things have not been going as well for Iglesias in Pawtucket, however, and he’s seeking ways to improve his chances of making it back to the big leagues.
Iglesias, who is renowned as a slick fielding shortstop, is getting the start at third base on Tuesday afternoon against the Indianapolis Indians, the first appearance of his professional career at a position other than shortstop.
“Iggy’s been taking ground balls down there for about two weeks, a little bit at second base, a little bit at third base, just to expose him to the positions,” PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina said before Tuesday’s game.
In doing so, the Sox hope to put him in position to find more pathways to contribute in the big leagues. DiSarcina, a former major league shortstop, has experience adjusting to both third base and second base, and has been helping Iglesias with the transition.
“Speaking personally about my own career, I played shortstop in the minor leagues and my first game in the big leagues was at third base and I felt completely out of place,” said the manager, who stressed the importance of getting Iglesias some exposure to different positions. “The last thing you want to do is to put someone in a position, number one, where they’ll be unsuccessful, and number two, get hurt.”
The shift from shortstop is not a permanent move by any means, and DiSarcina emphasized that there remains no question of his ability to be a big league shortstop. Instead, the experiment with additional positions represents an exercise to give Iglesias some additional tools, making him a more versatile player and therefore, a better candidate to be called upon if needed at the big league level.
“I think the organization is great with just exposing him to these positions, because you just never know,” said DiSarcina. “If he gets called up in September, and everyone’s healthy, and you want to give somebody a day off, and it’s not Stephen Drew, it’s comforting to know, as a manager, that somebody’s played over there.”
Iglesias seems to be eager to take on the new opportunity, which makes the adjustment that much easier.
“He’s got a great work ethic, he enjoys it,” said DiSarcina. “The days he’s been at second and third he’s been like a little kid, asking questions. It’s almost like it’s brought this enthusiasm out of him, just the experience and being exposed to these positions. It wouldn’t work unless he was fully committed to it, and excited about it, which he is.”
While Iglesias’ defensive versatility will make him a more attractive option for the Red Sox should they be in need of another infielder, he doesn’t look to be performing at a major-league level right now when it comes to his offense. Iglesias is batting an anemic .205/.262/.330 on the season in Pawtucket. This month has been particularly difficult for the infielder; he’s 8-for-50 (.160 average) in May with only one extra base hit, a home run in Monday night’s contest, his fourth of the year.
DiSarcina acknowledged that the 23-year-old has work to do with regards to his offensive approach.
“It’s been inconsistent. He’ll come out of his zone a little bit and swing at borderline pitches, secondary pitches, and he’ll put them in play softly. I don’t know if he’s seeing the ball well, if it’s just his approach,” said DiSarcina. “He’s working on it with [hitting coach] Dave [Joppie] in the cage, and he just needs to have it translate onto the field with his results. And that takes time sometimes. He’s had some good at-bats, he’s hit some balls hard to the second baseman with no results, he’s hit some hard ground balls to the shortstop with no results. He needs to get to the point where he’s putting together four good at-bats a night. When you’re inconsistent with your approach, you’re going to have one good at-bat out of four.”
While Iglesias’ offensive production is still a work in progress, DiSarcina thinks that the changes in the field will be come a little easier to the defensive wizard.
“He’ll be fine at third base,” the manager assured before Iglesias’ first start at a foreign position on Tuesday afternoon. “If you ask [Iglesias], he’s played every position but pitcher, and he’s also great at every position but pitcher.”