Iglesias not surprised to see old teammates in ALCS
Slick-fielding shortstop reflects on time with Sox and trade that sent him to Detroit
BOSTON -- Jose Iglesias doesn't have to worry about what's at stake financially during the American League Championship Series. He's due for a World Series paycheck no matter what happens.
That's what happens when both your teams reach the ALCS.
"I saw this coming," Iglesias said. "Two great organizations and two great teams. Boston has been playing really well. It's an amazing team."
Iglesias, after beginning the season with the Red Sox, will start at shortstop for the Tigers in Game 1 on Saturday night, but played a significant role in both teams getting this far. Both needed him badly to plug big holes in their infield at the right time.
Igelsias was needed at both shortstop and third base for the Red Sox because of injuries to Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks. The Tigers needed him only at shortstop.
In one of the big deals at the July 31 Trade Deadline, the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Red Sox and sent top outfield prospect Avisail Garcia to the White Sox. The Red Sox, while giving up three other Minor League prospects to the White Sox, gained pitcher Jake Peavy in the trade.
The Tigers made the deal because they were bracing for the possibility All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta was about to be suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Rumors had been rumbling since Spring Training and the Tigers did not have a legitimate candidate to take over if Peralta went down.
"Thing was, everybody was really quiet about what was going on with Jhonny," pitcher Justin Verlander said. "But as soon as the Tigers got Jose, the light bulb was going on and it was a sign Jhonny was in a little bit of trouble."
The Tigers would have been too without Iglesias because less than a week after the trade, Peralta agreed to his 50-game suspension. That's why they were willing to give up a top prospect like Garcia. But the Tigers also knew they weren't getting a rental player.
This was Igelsias' first full season in the Major Leagues while Peralta is a free agent after the season. Igelsias, 23, could be the Tigers' starting shortstop for the next five years and his performance to this point has only reinforced that possibility.
"He's a terrific young player, there's no question about that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "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 kinds of talent. He's been a great addition to us."
The Red Sox have not forgotten what Iglesias did for them. In addition to his excellent defense at both third and shortstop, Iglesias was hitting .330 with a .376 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage before being traded. But it was the glove work that made him a fan favorite at Fenway and had many skeptical about the trade.
"He played great," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who served as Iglesias' mentor. "You look at one point, he was hitting .400 for a long time and his defense is unbelievable. He did a lot for us when Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks went down. He did a lot."
The trade caught Iglesias by surprise. Drew had come off the disabled list on July 20, but Middlebrooks, who missed three weeks in the first half with a strained back, was still in the Minor Leagues trying to find his swing. Iglesias was playing third base, but the Red Sox really wanted Peavy to reinforce their rotation.
"I was in shock," said Iglesias, who signed with the Red Sox in 2009 after leaving Cuba. "I had been in the organization for four years, I knew everybody well and now I was starting over. I was in shock, but in the end it's a business."
Peralta returned for the final three games of the season and was moved to left field to keep Iglesias' glove at shortstop. Peralta started at shortstop in Game 5 of the ALDS because Leyland wanted an extra power bat in the lineup. The Tigers also had Justin Verlander on the mound, a strikeout pitcher with one of the lowest ground ball ratios in the league.
But Tigers starters Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez are in the top ten in forcing grounders, so defensive prowess at shortstop is vital for the Tigers. Sanchez is starting Game 1 so Iglesias will be at shortstop. Leyland was non-committal on Friday about the rest of the series.
"At my age, I go one day at a time," Leyland said.
"It's his decision, whatever he wants for the team," Iglesias said. "The bottom line is we're trying to win the game, so you try to help your team as much as possible. Jhonny is a big part of this team. He is a good player. He has helped me a lot.
"It's just an amazing feeling, seeing both teams in the championship series and playing against the Boston Red Sox. Playing in Fenway Park is fun, unbelievable fans and unbelievable stadium. Two great organizations. I saw this coming."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.