Jose Iglesias has put on a show at the plate in his first two months with the Cincinnati Reds. He leads the team with a .306 batting average, 34 points better than his career average, and even hit his first career grand slam Monday in an 8-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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However, what stands out most about Iglesias is his glove at shortstop. His defensive abilities have been the strength of his game for as long as he has played.
“Discipline and hard work on a daily basis put you in a good spot,” Iglesias said Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. “I have a routine. I do the same thing every day. I work on my backhand, some different types of drills. Every single day, I do the same thing since I was 8 years old.”
The list of great plays by Iglesias grows by the week. He made a backhand stop of a hard-hit ground ball Saturday in Chicago. He ranged far to his right to snag a ball up the middle on May 9 and threw across his body to get the runner at first base. He turned a double play almost blindly in May in Oakland, catching the ball and throwing to first in one motion. He charged a ball on April 10 and flipped it to first with his glove.
“About 71 percent of the earth is covered by water, José Iglesias covers the rest,” the official Reds Twitter account posted after that play.
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Iglesias was an All-Star in 2015, his second season with the Detroit Tigers, and a Gold Glove finalist a year later. He’s a candidate for both honors this season.
“The impact he has, it’s hard to put into words or quantify it,” Reds manager David Bell said. “By making plays, he’s keeping guys off base. He’s keeping other teams’ opportunities down. He’s allowing our pitchers to throw less pitches, and we end up using less pitchers. It’s so important, especially at that position in the middle of the field. From the way he practices to the way he loves it, he wants every play. He wants every ball hit to him. He has a style about him. It’s not just his style. It actually makes him better. He’s able to make plays because he has a freedom to the way he plays that other guys just don’t have. They’re not playing quite that free. That’s a real strength of his. He practices those plays. He throws to first base without looking at the base. It creates an awareness on the field.”
Iglesias might not have gotten a chance to shine if second baseman Scooter Gennett had not started the season on the injured list. The Reds moved Jose Peraza to second base and gave Iglesias a full-time job at shortstop. Through Monday, he had started 48 of 54 games. The Reds have been in last place since the opening week of the season but would be in much worse shape if not for the play of Iglesias.
“Defense, man, it’s just so important,” he said. “For me, hitting, you can win games, but with defense and pitching, you can win championships. That’s where we focus. That’s the emphasis on a daily basis.”
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