The Boston Red Sox are dealing with two major injuries that could affect their opening day lineup.
Slugger David Ortiz is continuing his slow recovery from an Achilles injury, but he’s making progress and will take batting practice on Monday. Meanwhile, starting shortstop Stephen Drew is still suffering from concussion symptoms after being hit in the head with a pitch in a Grapefruit League game last week. Both players are in doubt for Boston’s April 1st opener.
Red Sox Manager John Farrell has already indicated that if Ortiz is not ready, he will use a rotating DH within the lineup. Replacing Drew, however, will not be so simple. Farrell likes what he’s seen from 23-yearold Jose Iglesias in camp, and he seems to be leaning toward the youngster to start at shortstop if Drew is not ready.
“You look at the hard contact. There have been a number of outs that he’s driven to right field, to center field with more authority that he finished up last year,” Farrell said of Iglesias. “The adjustments he’s undertaking are showing up in the game. I think there’s a more confident hitter that stands in the box right now than was the case at the end of last year.”
While all that may be true, utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco is still having a much better spring. In 13 preseason games, Ciriaco is hitting .333 (10-30). He’s knocked in five runs and stole three bases. Iglesias, on the other hand, is hitting just .237 this spring (9-38) in 14 games. He has one home run and has also knocked in five runs. Both have played good defense, though Iglesias will always be considered the better defender.
I hate the idea of Iglesias as Boston’s starting shortstop. The guy simply cannot hit. That is a recipe for disaster in the American League. To date, he hasn’t hit well in the minors, and he batted just .118 last season in 77 plate appearances with the big league club. The Red Sox will struggle to score runs this year—especially if Ortiz is not in the lineup—so Iglesias’ bat will hurt the team all that much more.
Ciriaco has earned the job. He’s a proven major league commodity, having batted .293 last season in 76 games. He can steal bases (16 in 2012), and he can hit for moderate power (15 doubles and 2 homers). I think it will be a costly mistake to overlook Ciriaco as starting shortstop should Drew not make it back from injury in time for the season opener.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)