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Iglesias: Becoming U.S. citizen is 'huge for me'

Formal ceremony for Cuban-born shortstop to be held at Comerica Park on June 25
MLB.com @beckjason

CHICAGO -- Jose Iglesias arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field in time to make a game-saving play defensively Friday night, throwing out speedy Adam Engel to preserve a Tigers victory over the White Sox. But that wasn't why the Cuban-born shortstop was beaming with pride as he talked in the Tigers' clubhouse Saturday morning.

"I came to this country literally like I'm dressed right now, with a pair of shorts and a T-shirt," he said, "and a dream to be an MLB player. I made it through and now to become a citizen of this country, it's something special."

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CHICAGO -- Jose Iglesias arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field in time to make a game-saving play defensively Friday night, throwing out speedy Adam Engel to preserve a Tigers victory over the White Sox. But that wasn't why the Cuban-born shortstop was beaming with pride as he talked in the Tigers' clubhouse Saturday morning.

"I came to this country literally like I'm dressed right now, with a pair of shorts and a T-shirt," he said, "and a dream to be an MLB player. I made it through and now to become a citizen of this country, it's something special."

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Iglesias arrived in the United States as a teenager a decade ago, smuggled out of Cuba at great risk to his life and career if he'd been caught. He has made a career for himself as a defensively gifted shortstop, and a life for himself in Miami. But while his kids were American citizens by birth, he had to wait for his turn, then go through a waiting period followed by the naturalization process.

"My kids and my fiancee are all Americans. I was last," he said. "To be part of this great country, it's huge for me."

After studying for his citizenship test with teammates and clubhouse video coordinator Andy Bjornstad, Iglesias took his test Friday morning in Detroit. As many highlight plays as he has made in the infield under the spotlight of a big crowd and a television audience, he admitted to being nervous.

Video: DET@BOS: Iglesias makes diving play, strong throw

"Andy the video guy, I'd sit with him and he'd ask me questions," Iglesias said. "It's been a fun process. I enjoyed it."

Iglesias passed the test, then traveled to Chicago, where he joined the team in time for the game. His formal ceremony, perhaps fittingly, will be on the field at Comerica Park next homestand.

The Tigers have held a pregame citizenship ceremony every season, usually around the Fourth of July. Every so often, a player who passes the naturalization process gets to be part of it. Former Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco became a citizen in the ceremony years ago.

When the Tigers host this year's ceremony on June 25 before their 3:10 p.m. ET game against the A's, Iglesias will be a part of it, with his family in the stands to watch. So will center fielder Leonys Martin, who took his citizenship test in the offseason.

"To become an American citizen was one of my dreams," Iglesias said. "I'm extremely happy."

McCann tries stealing home
The Tigers' aggressive approach on the basepaths under new manager Ron Gardenhire has been well-chronicled, usually with emphasis on speedy players like Iglesias, Martin and JaCoby Jones. Nearly as important, though, is getting smarter baserunning out of average and below-average runners. James McCann was trying to provide such a spark Friday night when he broke for home on Martin's steal of second base.

In that case, though, his heart proved too ambitious for his legs.

"He wasn't supposed to go, to tell you the truth," Gardenhire said. "[Third-base coach] Dave [Clark] told him, 'You're staying.' But, you know, sometimes your heart just says, 'I can do this.' And he took off."

He couldn't. Shortstop Tim Anderson cut off catcher Omar Narvaez's throw to second base, then fired the ball back to Narvaez to tag out McCann at the plate and end the fourth inning with Jeimer Candelario at the plate.

Video: DET@CWS: Narvaez, Anderson get big out at home plate

"My thought process was Candy was down [in an] 0-2 [count] at the time," McCann said. "If they try to throw Leo out, let's try to steal a run here. I probably took too long to decide. Honestly, it was a mistake on my part. Leo had the bag stolen."

With the 0-2 count, Gardenhire said, the Tigers were fine with Martin stealing second and opening up first base. If McCann had been more decisive on going home, Gardenhire wouldn't have had a big problem with that part, either. But with third baseman Yolmer Sanchez playing back rather than trying to hold the runner, McCann missed an opportunity to get a bigger lead off the bag.

"If he gets down [the line] when the catcher lets the ball go, he scores," Gardenhire said. "He could've made it. That's just a little more awareness on his part. I like game-on tries, but if you're going to do that, you have to realize and just cheat [down the line]."

Quick hits
• The Tigers optioned swing pitcher Artie Lewicki to Triple-A Toledo to make room for Jordan Zimmermann's return from the disabled list. "We want Lewicki to go down there and get pitching, stay stretched out," Gardenhire said. "You know he'll be back here, probably in a couple weeks."

Francisco Liriano has joined Triple-A Toledo, where he'll make his rehab start for the Mud Hens on Sunday evening against Louisville.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Iglesias