New role for Iglesias as Middlebrooks returns

New role for Iglesias as Middlebrooks returns
June 10, 2013, 7:45 pm
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Will Middlebrooks returned to the Red Sox Monday, meaning an infielder had to go.
     
To the surprise of very few, Pedro Ciriaco -- and not Jose Iglesias -- found himself as the odd man out.
     
What's more, Iglesias isn't going to be a typical utility man.
     
"We're going to do everything we can to get Jose three days a week on the left side of the infield," said John Farrell. "Everyone is aware of that plan going forward. The fact is, we've got a pretty deep 25-man roster and we can afford to keep some guys' legs fresh as we get into hotter months and deeper into the season."
     
Iglesias earned himself a reprise -- and some additional playing time in the last two weeks, filling in at first for Middlebrooks while hitting safely in 13 straight games at a .435 pace.
     
"I think players just tell you what they're ready for how productive they can be and to what level they can contribute," said Farrell. "And in this case, we don't see Jose strictly as a utility guy. He's got a bright future ahead of him, but in the situation we find right now, he's going to find himself at third, find himself at short, possibly at second on a given day.
     
"To have that type of performance -- and the kind of confidence, more than anything -- in him, available to us . . . it makes us better."
     
Though Iglesias is a righthanded hitter and Stephen Drew, the starting shortstop, hits lefthanded, Farrell said there would not be a platoon in place.
     
"This isn't going to be strictly a matchup," said Farrell. "There may be a lefthanded matchup when he plays shortstop on a given day, or if there's a lefty in a day game following a night game just to given Stephen a day down. That would be part of it. But Stephen has done a very good job for us at shortstop. He's been streaky at times at the plate, but we feel good about our infield depth."
     
Not long ago, the Sox may have leaned toward sending Iglesias back to Triple A so he could play every day and continue to develop. But there's also value to having him in the big leagues.
     
"I think there's a lot of benefit to continuing to get exposure and experience at the big leagues," said Farrell. "We feel three days a week is not going to cause someone to go backwards in terms of their timing. The days in between his starts are now going to be as important as those games played to stay sharp and stay ready to step in when in the lineup."
     
Farrell said Middlebrooks and Drew understand that Iglesias has earned additional playing time with his play.
     
"I think guys realize that this is a pretty deep roster," he said, "and guys have to earn their right to get on the field. Guys see the merit to it and understand that we've got good players here. If they're not in the lineup, it's because there's another good player right alonside of them."
     
Iglesias said he was thankful to remain with the team "and help this team continue to win some ballgames."
     
The infielder will have to learn how to contribute while playing irregualrly, something he hasn't done much of in his young career.
     
"Of course you want to play," he said. "But bottom line, I'm happy to be here. I've never been in this position before. I'll continue to work and get my routine like I'm going to be playing in the game, so that if something happens, I'll be ready."
     
Middlebrooks, meanwhile, spent five games at Pawtucket, hitting .294 (5-for-17) with two homers and six RBI.
     
"First and foremost, I wanted to get healthy," said Middlebrooks. "I had some good at-bats, worked on some things and I feel better."
     
Middlebrooks also managed to work four walks in his stint in the minors.
     
"I'm an aggressive hitter," he said, "but I kind of quieted down a little bit and got myself in good counts and knew when guys were going to throw me those borderline pitches. Just working on my approach was my main thing and having good focus throughout the game and not just for a few at-bats.
     
"Health wise, I feel a lot better. There were a few nagging things (back, ribs) that were going on and for the most part, I feel like they're gone. I feel a lot better."