Stephen Drew will officially start the season on the seven-day Concussion Disabled List. He will be eligible to play by April 3rd, but the Sox are not counting on it.
So, it’s a two-man battle for the starting shortstop job.
On the one hand we have Jose Iglesias, the next Orlando Cabrera, the next Alex Gonzalez, the only two World Series champion shortstops in modern Red Sox history. They say Iglesias could be better than both of them in the field already. They say defense wins championships.
On the other hand we have Pedro Ciriaco, the slasher, the rise-to-the-moment guy, the Yankee killer.
At the plate, Ciriaco is ahead of Iglesias. This spring he is batting .371 to Iglesias’ .292. Last season Ciriaco hit .293 with a penchant for clutch hitting, especially against the Yankees, but he does not walk. Literally. He has not walked once this entire spring. Scouts will start compiling data on Ciriaco, and if he were to play everyday, I would not be surprised if we saw a few brutal slumps from him.
He is the perfect pinch hitter, though. He lives for the big moment. You can see it in his stance when he has a chance to change the game with a hit. You don’t send a pinch hitter up to take pitches and to walk. You send him up there to rip one down the line. You need a slasher, a guy whose confidence increases where others might grow anxious. That’s exactly what Ciriaco brings to the locker room.
He also has more defensive versatility than Iglesias. He can play third, and second too, when Pedroia or Middlebrooks needs a day off. And we know he never lets an opportunity go to waste—he capitalizes on his starting opportunities.
So, expect Iglesias to be the opening day shortstop and expect to see Ciriaco in the on-deck circle in the eighth inning. If the Sox make the playoffs this season, Ciriaco and Iglesias will be two of the pillars to that success, just in different ways.