BOSTON -- He may be in a different uniform, but former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias still knows how to captivate a sellout crowd at Fenway.
Visiting the park for the first time with his new team, the Detroit Tigers, Iglesias dazzled on defense, playing a role in three key double plays that helped starting pitcher Doug Fister and the Tigers bullpen shut out the Red Sox, 3-0, on Monday.
“[I was] excited,” Iglesias said of his return. “Excited to see those guys again and [play] at Fenway.”
The first of the double plays was textbook, Iglesias taking a feed from Fister to the bag before firing the ball to Prince Fielder at first to silence a first-and-second, nobody-out situation for the Red Sox in the first inning.
Then came his next chance in the second, helping Fister escape back-to-back walks to lead off the inning by dodging a hard Mike Napoli slide into the bag before throwing Jarrod Saltalamacchia out at first.
“That kid, he’s got great hands and he moves all over the diamond and gets things done,” Fister said. “It’s such a blessing to have him and the things that he brings to this team are just astounding.”
As if helping Fister escape trouble in the first two innings wasn’t enough, Iglesias was back at it in the sixth. Following a leadoff single from Shane Victorino in what was still a scoreless game, Dustin Pedroia, Iglesias’s former double play partner, hit a bouncing ball past Fister on an attempted hit-and-run. Rushing in to make the play, Iglesias grabbed the ball on a tough bounce, fully extended to his right to tag the hard-running Victorino and spun around completely before firing a strike to first to get Pedroia out.
“When people make plays like that, you can’t practice those,” manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s just athleticism and flexibility, agility, whatever you want to call it. You just can’t practice a play like that. If somebody tells me they practice a play like that, I’ll tell them they’re lying because that doesn’t happen.
“He’s made about three already that I’ve never seen before. He’s going to make some of those acrobatic plays and things of that nature and we’re very fortunate,” Leyland added.
Since being traded to the Tigers on July 30, Iglesias has played 25 of his 28 games at his natural position of shortstop. After starting only 27 of his 63 games with Boston at short, Iglesias said he has played better knowing what position he’ll be at.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do, playing at short. That’s what I’m doing, I feel comfortable,” he said.
As far as Leyland is concerned, there’s no doubt Iglesias is best suited to stay at shortstop.
“Every once in a while [with] some players you get mixed reviews. On him, there are no mixed reviews. Everybody that we’ve ever talked to, or I’ve ever talked to, have said that this guy is a fantastic shortstop,” Leyland said. “When you get split reviews, somebody’s wrong, so when you get a dominant yes, that means the guy’s good.”