Dombrowski: Iglesias return is bright spot for 2015

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit — The job is still his if he is healthy.

Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias missed all of this season with stress fractures in both legs.

It was a devastating setback for a dynamic, young player. But if he has fully recovered by next spring, as the Tigers anticipate he will be, the job will be there waiting for him.

Dave Dombrowski's delight at such a thought was unmistakable Tuesday during his annual end-of-season news conference. When asked whether Iglesias would return to the starting lineup, the Tigers president, chief executive officer and general manager replied, "I would think so. But I don't want to anoint him without our manager and staff seeing him."

Iglesias suffered his season-ending injuries during spring training and spent the year away from the team, so manager Brad Ausmus and his staff didn't have much time to get to know him or to watch him play.

Dombrowski saw Iglesias in 2013, however, after the Tigers acquired him from the Red Sox. To say the Tigers boss is eager to have him reclaim the starting job is an understatement.

"I'd be surprised if he's not (the starter)," Dombrowski said. "He is a premium young shortstop that is outstanding from a defensive perspective. He also has speed and will add something offensively."

But it's the magic in Iglesias' glove that is most anticipated.

"This guy can really play shortstop," Dombrowski said. "People forget how good he is defensively."

Not everyone has, apparently.

While the Dombrowski session was short on hard news, meaning that no postseason personnel decisions were announced, it was long on the variety of discussed topics.

First of all, Dombrowski reiterated Ausmus will return as manager.

"I think he did a fine job," he said. "He's back. He's our manager. He's very hard-working, very knowledgeable, communicates well with players and with the front office.

"He's on top of situations. He tackles situations with the players. I think he's only going to get better."

Among the other hot topics:

■ Are discussions with David Price about a long-term contract on the radar yet?

"Haven't even tackled that issue at this point," Dombrowski said.

■ Any regrets about the Doug Fister deal with Washington?

"No, I don't regret that deal," Dombrowski said. "Our starting pitching was not our downfall this year.

"I know that Robbie Ray (a prized pitching prospect the Tigers received from the Nationals as part of the package for Fister) was not ready, but we still like Ray as we go forward."

■ What are the biggest priorities for the Tigers in the offseason?

"Three things would really kind of fit for us, Dombrowski said. "In no particular order, one is solidifying our center-field situation, either a left-hand hitter to go with Rajai (Davis) or someone to be a full-time center fielder.

"Secondly, our bullpen needs to be improved. Some of that can be internal (a reference to Bruce Rondon returning healthy).

"And, thirdly, I'd like to mix another left-handed hitter in there somewhere, but I don't have a specific answer at this time where that person would play. It might be a guy off the bench who could be an offensive threat."

■ Have the Tigers told any players since the end of the season they won't be re-signed or pursued as free agents?

"We have not hard those conversations yet," Dombrowski said. "That's something we would tackle right after the World Series."

■ Any thoughts on Justin Verlander?

"I think he will bounce back," Dombrowski said. "I think he's really driven to bounce back. That core injury probably bothered him a little bit more, particularly for preparation going into the year."

■ Are the Tigers comfortable moving forward with oft-injured Alex Avila as their catcher?

"Sure there is a concern," Dombrowski said. "When a guy gets hit in the head and has concussions, I mean that's a concern. I've known Alex since he was five, so I worry about him as a human being as well when something like that happens.

"But we did a very extensive extra type of testing after the season, and they found nothing that was abnormal. They say he should be fine going into next year."

■ Will Miguel Cabrera have ankle bone spur surgery?

"There's no question that it bothered him, at times worse than others," Dombrowski said. "He would do something to jar it, and it would hurt him.

"He's in a process of being evaluated. We've already done some of the work on that, and will do more this week. Then we'll determine what we're going to do beyond that. But that will be more of a doctor's decision. I'd say (surgery) is possible, but people who have looked at him say it's a relatively easy procedure."

■ Projects for improvement?

"(Nick) Castellanos needs to improve defensively at third base," Dombrowski said. "We've discussed that with him already. He has good hands, a strong arm, but he has to improve his foot quickness over there.

"But you also have to give the guy a break. He was a rookie who hadn't played third base in a year and a half."

tom.gage@detroitnews.com

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Tiger highlights

Highlights from Dave Dombrowski's press conference on Tuesday:

* The Tigers will wait until after the World Series to make any personnel moves.

* Victor Martinez is more likely to return than Max Scherzer; both are free agents.

* The Tigers' offseason focus will be resolving center field, fixing their bullpen and adding left-handed hitting help.

* The Tigers are likely to pick up the $7 million team option on Joakim Soria.

* Ankle surgery is still a possibility for Miguel Cabrera.

* Jose Iglesias is healthy and will enter spring training as the starting shortstop.

* Dombrowski expressed confidence in manager Brad Ausmus, saying, "He's only gonna get better."