When the Red Sox dealt him to the Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline, Jose Iglesias figured their paths would cross down the line.
At the time, the Tigers were in the middle of a 12-game winning streak that would ostensibly lock up the AL Central. The Sox had just regained first-place in the East, and stayed there.
It made sense that the two teams would meet in the American League Championship Series.
“Absolutely,” Iglesias said. “Boston’s been playing really well this year and they’ve got an amazing team. I saw this coming.”
Three months after the trade, Iglesias is still adjusting.
“Sometimes I say ‘we’ as in ‘Red Sox,’ ” he said.
But in 46 games, he’s found a comfortable role with a Tigers team making its third straight appearance in the ALCS.
“As far as his defense, he’s really helped us out there, his hitting as well, his speed, he’s just overall a really great player,” said slugger Prince Fielder. “He’s really been a good asset.”
Iglesias said the adjustment was a process.
He had to get used to the differences between Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Sox manager John Farrell, leaders with two different styles.
“Everybody has different ways to do things,” Iglesias said. “They’re both amazing managers and they’ve both done an amazing job.”
At the same time, after having players like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia to lean on in Boston, Iglesias had to be his own player.
“For years, every single day right next to those guys, I learned a lot,” he said. “That’s why I’m here today as a player, as a person, as a teammate. At this short age, I feel very comfortable with that advice.”
Then, for a player who went from starting the season with the Sox to being sent to the minors to being promoted midseason, there was the postseason learning curve.
“The playoff game is hard,” Iglesias said. “A lot of good pitchers. You’ve got to do little things, like move the guy over, try to be on base no matter what, and it’s going to be a good series for the fans and for baseball.”
Iglesias went 1 for 12 in the first four games of the Division Series against Oakland. In Game 5, Leyland decided to go with Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.
“It was his decision, but it worked for the team,” Iglesias said. “The bottom line is we try to win the game no matter how. And anyway possible you can help your team win.
Leyland made the move to get more pop in the lineup, and Peralta went 2 for 4 in the 3-0 win. Iglesias entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement.
Leyland said Iglesias will be back in the lineup Saturday night. And the shortstop acknowledged he will have added incentive when he looks across the field at his former teammates.
“I just try to do my job every single night, but yeah, it’s always a little more,” he said. “You’ve got your ex-teammates over there and you feel real excited to be here and see them.”
Hunter had options
Before signing his two-year, $26 million contract with the Tigers in the offseason, Torii Hunter said he gave the Red Sox serious consideration.
Close relationships with Ortiz (“my best friend in baseball”) and John Lackey made Boston enticing to the five-time All-Star, along with the belief that the Sox would be able to rebound after a last-place finish in 2012.
“I definitely expected those guys to bounce back,” Hunter said. “I looked at their pitching rotation, pitching and defense win games. With David Ortiz you can never count him out. Dustin Pedroia’s a gamer and I love him.
“I looked at it, I considered it, trust me.”
Ultimately Hunter chose Detroit, returning to a division he was familiar with after 11 seasons in Minnesota and being close to his son, Torii Hunter Jr., who plays football and baseball at Notre Dame.
Count on it
After Anibal Sanchez in Game 1, the Tigers’ rotation will be Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Doug Fister.
Despite going 4-3 against Boston in the regular season, with 52 strikeouts, Tigers pitchers had a 6.05 ERA against the Sox, giving up 43 runs on 77 hits.
Leyland said one of the things the Sox tend to do well — run up pitch counts — may play into his staff’s favor.
“I really don’t think that taking pitches and working the pitcher has much to do with it,” Leyland said. “Everybody makes a big deal about that. The Red Sox are terrific at-bats. If you throw strikes, taking pitches is a good thing for us. If you take strikes, that’s a good thing for us.”
The number of pitches the Sox take isn’t the issue, Leyland said. It’s the pitches they foul off over the course of an at-bat.
A long way to go
Many Tigers were still groggy after getting into Boston at 9 a.m. following their Game 5 win in Oakland, Calif. “We’re used to getting in at nine,” Leyland said. “Usually it’s not after a game.”
The cross-country flight, he said, wasn’t easy.
“It was a little rough, to be honest with you. But probably the best long flight we’ve ever had, obviously, for the right reasons.”