Well come on down, Jose Iglesias — your time has arrived.
It’s no surprise that the young defensive wiz would get another shot as the Boston Red Sox starting shortstop sometime in 2013. What is a surprise, however, is that the opportunity is more than likely going to come on Opening Day.
Yet, with free agent acquisition Stephen Drew still suffering from concussion symptoms after being hit on the helmet by a pitch on March 7, that’s exactly the move that the team will have to make.
Drew, who has been through a litany of injuries over his seven-year career (but never a known concussion), has reportedly left the Red Sox camp for Pittsburgh, where the shortstop will undergo more testing, and will also be consulting with concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins to determine the next steps of his recovery.
That said, given the relative lack of progress that Drew has experienced, it’s essentially a forgone conclusion that Boston’s $9.5 million man will start the 2013 season on the disabled list — if not longer.
The answers to concussion recovery are never easy, and the path to coming back varies wildly between individuals. At this point, I’d imagine that the team won’t be putting any sort of timeline on the 30-year old’s potential return until they get some results back from the tests.
As unfortunate as that is for Drew, however, the fact is that the team has to move on and start the 2012 season in a couple of weeks, and with just 16 at-bats to his name thus far this spring, there simply isn’t enough time — barring a miraculous turnaround in his condition — for him to get up to speed to break camp with the team.
It’s just as well, because baseball is probably the last thing Drew needs to think about right now; for Iglesias, though, it means being suddenly thrust into the spotlight, whether he’s ready or not.
There’s been no questions about whether he can handle the defensive side of things, but the key for the 23-year old will be to stay above water at the plate, something he absolutely did not do over his 68 MLB at-bats in 2012.
Though Iglesias is only hitting .233 and getting on base at a .267 clip over a team-leading 43-at bats this spring, the young shortstop has shown improvement in power, hitting four doubles and a triple to go along with his one homer. The .442 slugging percentage is his highest in three campaigns, and it looks as though the work he has done this season to change his stance is yielding some results.
Should that plan not work out, the team also has a plan C in Pedro Ciriaco, the speedy infielder (16 SB over 272 PA in 2012) who is currently out with back spasms.
While Ciriaco .299 career batting average over 312 PA is somewhat eye-opening, his pop-free bat and mediocre defense is unlikely to yield more value at the bottom of the team’s batting order compared to having Iglesias’ defensive wizardry at short for nine innings alone.
Regardless of which way they look, the Red Sox know only one thing — they are going to have to step into an unknown future at short when the 2013 season opens.