The same issue that caused Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias to miss a couple of games last fall has returned: shin splints. Iglesias has been sidelined for the past few days as a result of the injury. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has expressed the opinion that the team is less than thrilled about the fact that the ailment has recurred.
Although the injury does not appear to be too serious at this point, the mere thought of losing Iglesias for an extended period of time causes a certain amount of anxiety in Tiger nation and for good reason. The Tigers are not expected to carry a “true backup” at shortstop, and Steve Lombardozzi is essentially the only other player projected to be on the Tigers’ 25-man roster who can play that position. Don Kelly has played a handful of games there, but not since 2007 when he was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This begs the inevitable question of what will happen if recovery takes longer than expected and Iglesias is not ready for Opening Day, or the issue pops up for a third time.
The Tigers should be concerned, but not overly concerned. Lombardozzi would most likely get the first crack at shortstop, and there is plenty of reason to believe that he would do a very good job. Granted, shortstop is not Lombardozzi’s natural position, but he has logged 22 professional games at that position (20 in the minors leagues and two in the major leagues) and he has not committed a single error there. Lombardozzi is thought to have great hands, and he would probably be able to make a very smooth transition to shortstop. Another not so well known fact about Lombardozzi is that he had a rock solid .298 career batting average in the minor leagues. He could end up being a very valuable player for the Tigers.
The Tigers also have a pair of talented young prospects down on the farm who can play shortstop. One of them is Hernan Perez, who saw action with the Tigers in 2013, and the other one is Eugenio Suarez. Danny Worth was once thought to be a promising young middle infield prospect in the Tigers’ organization, but the 28-year-old batted just .220 in the minor leagues in 2013 and he has seemingly begun to fall off the radar.
One would have to believe that if the Tigers are not satisfied with Lombardozzi at shortstop then Perez would be the next place that the team would look. Perez simply appears to be more “big league ready” than Suarez. Although Perez struggled to the tune of a .197 batting average in the big leagues last season, he combined for a .301 batting average while splitting time between double-A Erie and triple-A Toledo in 2013. Suarez has yet to make his big league debut, and he batted just .264 with 123 strikeouts last season while splitting time between single-A Lakeland and double-A Erie. He is most likely a bit too raw for the big leagues.
At any rate, losing Iglesias would be very unfortunate and the Tigers would most certainly miss his defense. The fact that the Tigers are already going to be without outfielder Andy Dirks for 12 weeks just makes matters even worse. However, it would not be the end of the world. The Tigers will have more than enough pieces within their system to fill the void if such a scenario were to unfold.