Kinsler eager to play with new double-play partner Iglesias
JUPITER, Fla. — New Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler can’t wait to play alongside shortstop Jose Iglesias.
"He’s going to be a lot of fun to partner with up the middle," Kinsler said. "We will do a lot of things that are impressive."
Kinsler is a three-time All-Star with plenty of accomplishments, but getting him to take a bow for them is next to impossible.
Where playing with Iglesias is concerned, that’s a different story. Kinsler doesn’t mind sticking out his chest a bit, even though the two haven’t played much together yet.
Iglesias has been out for 10 days while recovering from a stress reaction in his shins, and their only work as a double-play combination came in drills and an exhibition game against Florida Southern. Kinsler didn’t play in the one Grapefruit League game Iglesias started on Feb. 27 against the Atlanta Braves.
Like Kinsler, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is anxious to see the special duo together.
"I’d like to get them on the field together so they can get to know each other," Ausmus said. "Iglesias is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop and Ian Kinsler is a proven All-Star player. But until they play together … "
Ausmus remembers hearing the debut of the greatest DP combo in Tigers history as an 8-year-old growing up in New England and listening to Boston Red Sox games.
"I heard their first game on the radio," Ausmus beforeSunday’s game against the Florida Marlins. "The announcer said it was their ‘double-play combination of the future,’ and whoever it was, hit the nail on the head. It was at Fenway, and I think it was in a doubleheader."
Ausmus has a great memory. The first game Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker appeared in was the second game of a doubleheader in Boston on Sept. 9, 1977. Whitaker batted second and went 3-for-5, and Trammell hit ninth and was 2-for-3. But they didn’t turn their first "twin-killing," as announcer Ernie Harwell called double plays, that day.
As much as Ausmus wants to watch this new combo — both of whom are under contract with the Tigers through 2018 — turn double plays, he also wants Iglesias to get his timing down at bat. Opening Day is three weeks away, and Ausmus said there have been "internal" discussions about whether Iglesias will be game-ready if he doesn’t return soon.
"We’re going to reach a point where he won’t be able to get his bat ready," Ausmus said. "And we’ll have to make a decision."
That decision would include having Iglesias get his stroke down in minor-league games.
Iglesias is running and hitting but isn’t ready to play. Ausmus said Iglesias won’t get into games until his shortstop tells him he’s fully healthy and ready to go.
Ausmus said he needs to see Steve Lombardozzi regularly make plays in the hole before using him at shortstop for any length of time.
Lombardozzi got that chance twice Saturday against the New York Mets and wasn’t able to come up with the play either time.
Andrew Brown hit one there in the second inning, and Lombardozzi made a great play to get to the ball. But he didn’t get much velocity on the throw, which pulled Victor Martinez off the bag at first.
In the third inning, Lombardozzi got to a ball hit by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but a low and weak throw skipped by Martinez.
"On the first one," Ausmus said, "he got caught turning the wrong way. But he was fine on the other one."
Both were scored infield singles, and there’s no doubt the scoring decisions were correct.
Still, Iglesias makes both those plays at an extremely high rate. And with Iglesias out because of shin problems again, having a shortstop able to slide in for a week or more is a consideration.
Lombardozzi, acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Doug Fister trade, is a virtual lock to make the team for his utility abilities — both in the infield and outfield — and base-running aptitude.
Because he tends to side-arm long throws, however, he might not be a good replacement candidate if Iglesias can’t stay healthy.