Detroit — They’ve had the conversation, but Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t expect to make an on-base percentage convert out of shortstop Jose Iglesias.
“He’s a swinger,” Gardenhire said with a chuckle Monday. “He swings, from the first pitch on. He’s ready to hit. You start to change people like that and they are (behind in the count) 0-2 all day long. A lot of times guys like that have the theory, I am going to get you before you get me.
“I don’t think you can change people who think like that. He’s a swinger.”
That he is. He has three walks in 97 plate appearances this season. Lately, though, Iglesias has been swinging the bat very well. He’d hit safely in his last six games entering play Monday, and in 12 of his last 14. Over that span he’s hitting .321 with five doubles and a triple.
That after he started the season 2 for 37.
“Just continue to play the game,” Iglesias said when asked if he’d made any adjustments at the plate. “I am starting to get my rhythm back. It’s a long year. We’re going to have ups and downs. I am always working on stuff. You never stop doing that.”
Still, when you start 2 for 37, especially a contact hitter like Iglesias, it can wear on you mentally
“A little bit,” he said. “But it was early in the season. Too early. There was nothing I could do at that point. Just try to make adjustments, but not try to do too much. Go back to the basics. It’s a long year.”
Certainly the warmer weather has helped. He’s been staying on the ball longer, not pulling off like he was on many of those bitter-cold nights.
“Just letting the ball travel,” he said. “Just see the ball a little longer. Eventually, the ball will find some holes.”
He was hitting .128 on April 19. In the last 10 games, he’s hit .318 and brought his average up nearly 100 points to .220. On 76 percent of the balls he’s put in play, he’s made medium or hard contact, per FanGraphs.
“We play at a very high level,” Iglesias said. “There are a lot of really good defenders. The same way I take hits away from them, I expect them to take hits away from me. It’s the game. But I am very happy that I’ve got my rhythm back and I’ve been able to contribute and help the team win games.”
But it’s always going to be hit or out for Iglesias. Two years ago, he walked 28 times in 513 plate appearances. Last year, 21 in 489 plate appearances. He’s on pace to walk fewer than 20 times in 500 plate appearance this year.
And he makes no apologies for that.
“I just want to be ready to hit,” he said. “I want to be ready to swing at strikes. I will take a walk if it’s presented, but I’m not expected to walk. I’m expecting to hit the ball.”
Ringing the bell again
Left-hander Chad Bell is a smart man. With the likelihood of being on the Detroit-Toledo shuttle most of the season, he and his wife are renting a place in-between the two cities.
“I’m 30 minutes away from both places,” said Bell, who was recalled from Toledo on Monday to replace Daniel Norris (groin). “So, no moving all year, no matter what.”
Bell made two appearances for the Tigers this month, and threw four innings in a start for the Mud Hens five days ago. He will resume his long relief role.
“It’s up to me to keep my spot and prove what I can do to stay here,” he said. “I hope those opportunities present themselves and I can be consistent and be someone they can count on.”
Around the horn
Miguel Cabrera was held out of the lineup Monday. He had a spasm in his left bicep and left the game Sunday. Gardenhire said he was still sore Monday. “We are going to give him a day or two and see how it goes,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll go day-to-day with him.
… Center fielder Leonys Martin was also kept out of the starting lineup. He is dealing with a sore hamstring. Gardenhire said he was available to pinch-hit or play defense late in the game.
… John Hicks made his first start at first base Monday. Gardenhire has been loath to play both his catchers at the same time. The Tigers don’t have an emergency catcher on the roster.
… With the injuries, the Tigers were down to one bench player Monday — Niko Goodrum.