DETROIT — Jose Iglesias is always smiling but this year he has a good reason for that.
Iglesias, 25, missed all of last season because of bilateral tibial stress fractures. In other words, he had the worst shin splints ever.
Iglesias looked happy at Comerica Park Thursday as the Tigers prepared to start their annual Winter Caravan.
The injury forced Iglesias to spend a long time away from the game he loved.
"This is actually my first time in my career, in my 25th year, that I’ve been away a year from baseball," Iglesias said. "I kind of had to do that to be in this position today. The good thing is I’m healthy and I will be healthy for 2015 and I will contribute to this team to win some ballgames."
Although Iglesias said he had a hard time watching the Tigers on television from home last year, he did try to stay in contact.
"I keep in touch," Iglesias said. "It was easier to keep in touch and support them that way. I watched a couple times but every time I turned the TV on, I feel I couldn’t do anything to help them. It was a very weird feeling for myself."
The Tigers have changed since the end of the 2013 season when Iglesias was last playing.
Last year, the Tigers had a new manager in Brad Ausmus. Iglesias said he’s talked to him.
"I haven’t had the opportunity to play with him," Iglesias said. "I’m pretty excited to do that."
Also exciting for Iglesias is the addition of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"Amazing," Iglesias said. "I just saw him this morning. We’re really happy to be on the same team. It’s a very unusual, good thing that we have two Cubans on the same team. We know each other and I’m just excited to have another Cuban player on Detroit. It’s a great player to have on our side."
The Tigers are hoping to have Iglesias on their side the entire time, but there’s no way to predict what will happen once he is playing every day, how his shins will react.
He’s able to do everything now — running, hitting, all baseball activity — but spring training hasn’t even started.
"I’ve never been through this situation before," Iglesias said. "I prepare myself every single day to be healthy. That’s my main goal for 2015 and be out there every single night."
Iglesias understands the expectations for the Tigers remain high and he embraces that.
"We have a very good team," Iglesias said. "It doesn’t matter which players you have, the bottom line is you gotta be healthy. If we are healthy, we got a chance to compete."