Iglesias renewed love for game being away from it
Jose Iglesias briefly caught himself in a time warp Thursday when he was asked about working with infield coach Omar Vizquel this spring.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “We’ve got a new manager … ”
Well, Brad Ausmus was new. Last spring.
“Well, he’s not new anymore. I’m the new here,” Iglesias said, correcting himself.
And that’s the impact of a lost season. While Brad Ausmus was learning on the job managing the Tigers last summer, and Vizquel built his influence on the Tigers’ defensive philosophy, Iglesias was working out at home in Miami, rebuliding strength in his legs.
Stress fractures in both shins put Iglesias’ career on pause. When Spring Training opens, he can hit play again. But he can’t simply pick up where he left off.
“We have a manager that I haven’t played before,” he continued, “and we have a great coach that I haven’t learned from much. I’m very fortunate to be healthy again and have the opportunity to help this team. That’s the bottom line, help this team win.”
For the most part last year, they won in spite of their shortstop, a revolving door that brought in aging Alex Gonzalez, brought up semi-prepared prospect Eugenio Suarez, and brought forth utility infielders Danny Worth and Andrew Romine. If they’re going to go beyond last season, they’re going to have to do it at least in part because of their shortstop.
Nobody knows how Iglesias will look after a season off the diamond. His condition was so rare that some don’t know what to expect of his health. Iglesias, for his part, sounded upbeat Thursday, but he sounded upbeat at this point last year too. Heck, he was healthy enough to wait tables at a National Coney Island on last year’s Winter Caravan, and he took it seriously, bringing out dishes at a near-professional speed.
So far, at least, he sounds good. He had a follow-up exam Jan. 16 and was cleared for more activity. He’s not at full speed, but as he said, “I’m close to it.”
“I’m about 75-80 percent [speed] every time I run. I’ve been running, fielding, hitting, jumping, doing everything, and pain-free. …
“I’ve been hitting on the field. I’ve been taking ground balls. I’ve been running. I’ve been doing everything without pain. And that’s my goal, being healthy.”
He doesn’t know exactly which day he’ll run at full speed, but he knows he will.
“I’ll have to check the schedule,” he said. “But definitely before Spring Training. I will be 100 percent for Spring Training, for the first day.”
He still has to deal with soreness, he said, but that’s to be expected. After a year off the field, including several months not being able to put much weight on his legs, he’s working out muscles that haven’t been used to that extent in a long time. That will take time to work out, but he expects it. After playing for at least a year with the pain of stress fractures — all the way back to his days in Boston — before doctors diagnosed it correctly, he can handle soreness.
“Just keep in mind, I dealt with this for a full year and performed at the highest level,” he said. “But I will try to get it out of my system. It’s part of your system, thinking about that pain every single night that I was feeling. But I don’t think it will be an issue. As long as the bone’s OK and there’s no fracture there, soreness I’ll deal with. Fractures, I was fortunate to deal with, but I would prefer not to, because it’s my career at risk. Thank God, knock on wood, I’m good to go, 100 percent.”
Doctors still haven’t pinpointed the exact cause, Iglesias said. Some suggested his biomechanics. Others argued his nutrition was a major factor, enough so that a nutritionist worked with him to put more calcium and Vitamin D in his diet.
“It was really rare to show fractures in both,” he said, “but it doesn’t matter how it came. I’m better physically, I’m on a nutrition plan and I feel pretty good. Actually this year, physically, I feel a lot better than last year.”
With it, he feels an appreciation for the sport that he lost for a year, and could’ve been taken away from him had something worse happened. Aside from a Division Series game or two, he said he didn’t watch much of the Tigers on television. He kept in touch with teammates, but didn’t want to watch.
“It made me to appreciate it more, because baseball is the sport I love to do,” he said. “This is what I love to do. To be away from it kept me more patient, more love for the game. I never take it for granted, but I was really disappointed that I wasn’t playing, because I love this game very much. This is what I love to do. Just being with my teammates, this is my family. We spend seven months a year competing every single night and helping each other out.”