BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 5-for-8 lifetime against Doug Fister when he was called upon to lay down a sacrifice bunt on Monday in the seventh inning of a 2-0 game. When Red Sox manager John Farrell was asked about it afterward, however, he was more worried about the matchup with the Tigers' defense than Saltalamacchia's matchup with Fister.
The Red Sox put eight people on base over Fister's seven innings, and three were erased on double plays. Jose Iglesias played a role in all three, including the whirling tag and throw that erased a leadoff runner in the sixth. That's the difference Iglesias makes in the Tigers' defense.
"He's improved their infield defense with his range," Farrell told Boston reporters before Monday's game. "I don't know if any of us even in this organization have ever seen a better defender at the position. I think that's a pretty strong statement for a guy who's in the early stages of what should be a long career."
Defense can be a difficult facet of the game to gauge with statistics, in part because of small sample sizes. Some evaluators believe it takes three seasons of stats to get the same read on a player's defense as one season will do for offense. In the short amount of time Iglesias has manned shortstop as a member of the Tigers, however, the direct numbers on double plays are promising.
According to STATS, Jhonny Peralta was the pivot man on 50 double-play attempts and turned 29 of them, for a 58 percent conversion rate. Iglesias has turned the pivot 10 times and gotten the second out on seven of them. It's a really small sample, and it doesn't include such factors as the hitter's speed running to first, but still, it's encouraging.
From April 1 to Aug. 4, the day before Iglesias took over at shortstop, the Tigers ranked 26th in the Majors -- and 13th in the American League -- with 56 double plays turned over 109 games. Since Aug. 5 the Tigers lead the AL, with 22 double plays turned over 29 games. Only the Marlins had more among Major League teams in that span.
Miggy returns to lineup after three games
BOSTON -- Jose Iglesias took a glance at the lineup card on his way through the clubhouse, stopped and took a closer look to make sure and then pumped his fists. For someone who has been the Tigers' everyday shortstop for four weeks, it seemed like an odd reaction.
It wasn't for himself, he said. He then pointed to the third spot in the batting order.
Yes, Miguel Cabrera is back. The third baseman returned to Detroit's starting lineup after leaving two consecutive games early with a sore groin and missing the following three.
Cabrera raised hopes for his impending return when he took batting practice with the team Monday morning and put on his usual show, a smile on his face. On Tuesday, he went through running and agility drills before batting practice with no obvious issues.
Asked afterwards how he felt, Cabrera said, "Better."
Cabrera picks up his Triple Crown chase in much the same spot where he left it. His .358 batting average is 23 points ahead of Mike Trout for the league lead, while his 130 RBIs are eight more than Orioles slugger Chris Davis' total. Cabrera trails Davis by four home runs.
The Tigers won two of three without Cabrera, three of five if you add the games he left early. They're 10-2 this season in games Cabrera didn't start, including Monday's 3-0 shutout of the Red Sox.
"We've been very fortunate," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday afternoon, "but that luck will run out."
At that point, Leyland had just two spots on his lineup card filled out. The rest was waiting on Cabrera. Once he was cleared to play, Leyland was able to fill out a standard lineup against a left-handed pitcher, in this case Boston's Jon Lester.
Leyland reiterates displeasure with callup practice
BOSTON -- On the day the Tigers and Red Sox finalized their September callups, manager Jim Leyland was asked how the expanded roster affects his bullpen matchups. The result was a familiar refrain he has echoed over the years about the inequities of playoff races being decided with expanded rosters in the final month.
He has hated the practice for years.
"That's been one of my big quirks for a long time," Leyland said.
Leyland has long supported capping the number of available players for a contest. A team could have close to 40 players on its roster for September thanks to callups, but he would prefer a rule having them designate 28 to 30 active players for a given game.
It has been discussed, he said, but hasn't had enough support to become a rule.
"It doesn't make sense for me to play five months of baseball, and then the last month you change the rules," he said. "It makes no sense to me at all."
The result is a bevy of left- and right-handed hitters on the bench for several teams, and several left- and right-handed pitchers to bring in for a matchup. Thus, trying to bring in a lefty reliever for a lefty hitter who might be weak against southpaws is futile. The new challenge becomes the reverse.
"You don't get a matchup," he said. "You'd better hope that a righty can get a lefty out, or a lefty can get a righty out. Because in a lot of cases, you're not going to have any choice, so you pick your poison."
Tigers bring back Bonderman, Alvarez, Holaday
BOSTON -- The Tigers finished their September callups by bringing back three players who had been optioned to Triple-A Toledo within the past couple weeks. Righty Jeremy Bonderman, lefty Jose Alvarez and catcher Bryan Holaday all spent most of August in Detroit but were optioned to make room for other players.
All became eligible to return on Monday after the Mud Hens' season ended, but none will be eligible for the postseason roster unless the Tigers use an injury exemption.
Bonderman has proven to be a versatile reliever since returning to Detroit in early August, pitching in situations ranging from long relief to setup work. He has allowed four earned runs on nine hits over 14 1/3 innings, with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts.
Alvarez made a few spot starts but returned to Detroit as a lefty reliever in mid-August while Phil Coke went to Toledo for a week and a half to work on his pitching. Alvarez gives Detroit a third left-hander in the bullpen alongside Coke and Drew Smyly.
Holaday will be the third catcher, behind Alex Avila and Brayan Pena. He spent two weeks as Pena's backup in August while Avila was on the disabled list with a concussion.
• Monday marked the 43rd anniversary of Gene Lamont's first Major League home run, hit at Fenway Park in his first big league at-bat. Lamont, Detroit's top pick in the Draft five years earlier, hit a solo shot off Boston's Cal Koonce in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader. It was the only run Koonce allowed in a complete-game three-hitter.