Red Sox manager Alex Cora has a tricky situation on his hands.
Playing José Iglesias at second base would do the most to help his team make the playoffs and secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game on Oct. 4.
Iglesias has been a surprisingly productive player since being signed on Sept. 6. He has a 1.295 OPS in 13 games with the Sox since being released by the Angels and played solid defense at second base.
Iglesias was 1 for 3 with a run scored in Tuesday’s 6-3 victory against the Mets. He has an eight-game hit streak, which has helped fuel a six-game hit streak.
Iglesias has started 11 games since his arrival, quickly earning Cora’s trust. His return to the Sox after being traded in 2013 has been a boost for everybody involved.
“This is home,” Iglesias said last week.
But once Game 162 is over, so is his season. Only players who were in the organization Aug. 31 are eligible for the playoffs. So Cora must balance using Iglesias, while at the same time preparing Christian Arroyo for a starting role in the postseason.
Arroyo was activated off the injured list before Tuesday’s game, having recovered from a case of COVID-19 that had him off his feet for a few days.
Arroyo has played only three games in the majors since July 18 because of illness and injuries. Counting six games in Triple A, he has had only 22 at-bats in the last two months.
He’s not starting the season over, but Arroyo has a lot of catching up to do before being playoff ready. Before he tested positive for COVID, Arroyo was out 31 games with a strained left hamstring. Arroyo has had more days on the injured list (82) than games played (53) this season.
“We all know the situation,” Cora said. “We all know what’s going to come with José. If we make it, he’s not part of it. We’ve just to make sure Christian’s timing is on point.
“I’m not saying he’s going to play every day. But at one point we know what’s going to happen and he’s going to be very important to what we’re trying to accomplish. We need him to be on point, timing-wise.”
In all, Arroyo has been on the injured list four times this season. But he’s been productive when on the field, hitting .264 with a .777 OPS while playing above-average defense at second base.
Getting at least some approximation of that is important to the Sox given their other options at second base.
Kiké Hernández can certainly play there, but he is needed in center field, where he has played Gold Glove-level defense. Using Hernández at second base means playing Alex Verdugo in center field with either J.D. Martinez or Kyle Schwarber in left field.
That combination has proven to be a disaster defensively.
The other options at second base include Jack Lopez, Jonathan Arauz, and Yairo Muñoz. But Arauz and Muñoz are on the COVID-19 IL. Lopez was returned to Worcester on Tuesday to open a spot for Arroyo.
“We can make adjustments,” Cora said when asked about the depth at second.
To some degree, that’s true. Defensively, Lopez is fine. It’s not out of the question Arauz and Muñoz could help, but it seems unlikely.
Ultimately, the Sox will need Arroyo if they make the playoffs. Whether it’s live batting practice before games or taking swings at high-velocity pitches off a machine, there’s plenty Arroyo can do to get ready. But there’s little time to waste. The Sox have only 10 games remaining.
The Triple A coaching staff told Cora they feel Arroyo is close to getting his swing back.
“It’s important to sit down with a player and explain where we’re at,” Cora said. “Having Christian on the bench is a plus for us. We can mix and match. We have to make sure he feels good. From there we can make a decision.”