Iggy's pop, glove may have won him a job

NEW YORK -- Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is due to come off the disabled list next Saturday, a day that should help to define the immediate future for 23-year-old Jose Iglesias.

For the first time, the Red Sox no longer are committed to the notion that they are best served by having Iglesias play every day -- which, with Stephen Drew as the starting shortstop, meant that Iglesias was stuck in Triple-A Pawtucket.

On Saturday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that the club has not ruled out keeping Iglesias as a utility player, a strong indication that is precisely what the Sox are planning to do. That's not surprising, given that Iglesias has filled in seamlessly at third base, where he was making his ninth start Saturday night, and was hitting .423 (11-for-26) since his recall May 24 from the PawSox. He took a five-game hitting streak into Saturday’s game, a streak that included two line singles off CC Sabathia Friday night, and is batting .435 in 13 games overall.

His hitting is startling, given that he was batting a meager .202 (24-for-119) in 33 games with the PawSox.

Iglesias’s emergence poses a direct threat to Pedro Ciriaco, who has been the team’s utility infielder the last two seasons, his most obvious impact coming in games against the Yankees last season, in which he batted .415 with 22 hits in 14 games against the Bombers, hitting 6 doubles, driving in 7 runs and stealing 5 bases.

Twice last season, Ciriaco had four-hit games against the Yankees, but his role as a Yankee-killer last season hasn’t bought him a single plate appearance against the Bombers this season. When Drew opened the season on the DL with concussive symptoms, Iglesias started at short, including the season-opening three games in New York, and Friday night Ciriaco remained on the bench while Iglesias played third.

Ciriaco is out of options, which means he would have to clear waivers in order for the Sox to send him to Pawtucket. With Iglesias playing so well, that isn’t likely to be a deterrent if the Sox decide to keep the 23-year-old Cuban.

“I guess what I’m hearing, once Will returns, what are we going to do?’’ Farrell said, cutting to the chase in response to a meandering question.

“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role. He’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop, so at some point, if we were to strongly and surely consider him for that utility role, we’ve got to get him some exposure at second base. The one thing we’ve been cautious about is just the pivot on the double play.

“I don’t know how you can [simulate] that in early work or simulated type situations, but most importantly we haven’t ruled him out in a utility role.’’

Many middle infielders, including Dustin Pedroia, have made the transition from short to second with ease.

Farrell said he can only guess as to why Iglesias has hit so much better on the big-league level this season than he has in the minors. Last month, Iglesias was benched for several games by Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina because of a desultory attitude; Iglesias has made it eminently clear he believes he should be playing in the big leagues, though he had an odd way of showing that by his failure to hit Triple-A pitching.

“I guess my comments would be more in general,’’ Farrell said. “When a player comes to the big leagues, and I can’t say this is the case with Jose, maybe it’s a result of greater concentration and focus from pitch to pitch. I do know this: The one thing he’s not doing is chasing breaking balls as much. I think that’s a sign of maturity, of better pitch recognition, of what opposing pitchers are trying to do against him, but there’s no denying he’s swung the bat very well.’’