Iglesias excited to return to Fenway

Iglesias excited to return to Fenway
October 11, 2013, 9:15 pm
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BOSTON --  Jose Iglesias was just 19 when the Red Sox signed him as an international free agent in September 2009, a year after he had defected from his native Cuba.  Iglesias knew very little English at that time but diligently worked to the point where he was soon conducting interviews – and telling jokes -- with the media in his second language without the assistance of a translator.
 
He’s played parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues, making it easy to forget he is still just 23. But after growing up in the Red Sox organization, he was traded just before the deadline this season, sent to the Tigers in a three-team deal that brought right-hander Jake Peavy to Boston.
 
“I was in shock,” Iglesias said Friday afternoon. “For four years I’ve been with this organization and I know everybody pretty well. But I’m going to start over again, and we got a great group here and I’m having fun.
 
“That surprised me, but at the end of the day it’s a business, and I think it was a good move for me.”
 
With Jhonny Peralta serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, Iglesias was given the Tigers starting shortstop job. He quickly began making spectacular, highlight-reel plays.  He’s already been back to Fenway Park since the trade, making the transition almost complete.  In three games in early September, he went 3-for-9 with two doubles and two RBI. So, he’s not feeling any extra motivation against his former team in the American League Championship Series, which begins Saturday night at Fenway.
 
“This is special to be back in Boston,” he said.  “It’s amazing.”
 
“Amazing, amazing feeling, to see your ex-teammates, against the Boston Red Sox, it’s always fun. Playing in Fenway Park is always fun. Unbelievable fans, unbelievable stadium. And who knows, we just try to continue to move forward and try to win.”
 
It was a bit of an adjustment, though, to remember that he was no longer a member of the Red Sox organization.
 
“Sometimes I say ‘we’ as a Red Sox,” he said. “But I feel each and every day more comfortable here.”
 
While with the Red Sox, he often sought out David Ortiz for advice. His locker was right next to Ortiz’s in the Sox clubhouse.
 
“There was so many [bits of advice],” Iglesias said. “In four years I learned a lot. I think that’s why I’m here today, as a player, as a person, as a teammate. I feel really comfortable.”
 
But after hitting a combined .303 between Boston and Detroit this season, Iglesias, who was bothered by shin splints in the second half of the season, hit just .083, going 1-for-12, in the ALDS. He was in the starting lineup for the first four games, but in the decisive fifth game, he entered the game in the bottom of the ninth as a defensive replacement.
 
Early on Friday, Iglesias wasn’t sure if he would be in the lineup for Saturday’s ALCS Game 1.
 
“We don’t talk about it,” he said. “We just focus on winning. No matter who’s playing, the bottom line is winning the game.”
 
But, Iglesias will be back in the starting lineup – for at least one day.
 
“At my age I go one day at a time,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “So Iglesias will be my shortstop [Saturday] night.”
 
“He's a terrific young player, there's no question about that.  I think people have a tendency to forget how young he is, it's a pretty big stage.  He's a very energetic player, sometimes too energetic with a terrific, terrific future.  He runs good.  We all know about his defensive ability.  I think he's going to be a good hitter at some point.  Probably swings too much like a big man right now.  But just all kind of talent.  And he's been a great addition to us.

“Our club really played well with him at shortstop.  I made a move last night [in Game 5] for obvious reasons to get another over‑the‑fence bat in the lineup.  He's been terrific for us.  He'll get better.  He's a very intelligent player, he's a very smart player and we're thrilled to have him.”
 
Victor Martinez got to know Iglesias a little before leaving the Red Sox as a free agent after the 2010 season to join the Tigers.
 
“He’s been huge since he got here,” Martinez said. “He’s a dynamic player, great defender, and he’s been able to handle the bat a lot more. And he’s been great, defensively he’s doing all great stuff.”
 
Martinez has noticed some changes in Iglesias since their time together with the Red Sox.
 
“Mature, more time,” Martinez said. “That’s what I think most of the time is all it takes, it takes some time for you to get comfortable and then good things happen.”
 
Iglesias is not surprised his former and current teams are now playing for the league championship.
 
“Absolutely, I could see this coming,” he said. “Two great organizations, two great teams, and hopefully the best will win.
 
“It’s going to be a good series for the fans and for baseball.”