CINCINNATI -- Shortstop José Iglesias has continued to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Reds. Signed during Spring Training to a Minor League deal to be a defensive-minded role player, the former All-Star has proven to be so much more as the regular shortstop.
Iglesias hit the first grand slam of his career and staked Cincinnati to a comfortable first-inning lead on its way to an 8-1 victory in Game 2 that split Monday's day-night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park. Starting pitcher Sonny Gray did his part from the mound as he allowed one earned run and five hits over six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“[Iglesias is] as committed to his offensive preparation as he is his defensive,” said second baseman Derek Dietrich, who was also a key addition in the midst of camp. “It’s really why I think he’s having so much success. Obviously he could always field, but he’s been a good hitter. He’s come up and had some big swings and has been very consistent.”
Next was Iglesias, who made a rare but key defensive miscue in the Game 1 loss. Very quickly into Game 2, he found a way to pick up his team for a win. He lifted a 1-1 Keller pitch into the left-field seats. Not only was it the first grand slam of his career, but the first one hit by a Reds player this season.
“Every time you put your team in a situation to win a game, obviously it feels good. Fortunately, I did it with the bat this time. I’m just glad,” Iglesias said. “[The grand slam was] a very unique situation. A lot of players never get that opportunity, so I’m very blessed to get such a thing down. It feels really good, especially in the situation that it was to put the team [ahead]. Especially with us in a doubleheader, a long day. It got us going and we needed that.”
Eleven Reds batted in the inning, including a second turn for Senzel. He hit a two-out RBI single to right-center field that scored Curt Casali for a 6-0 lead.
After he made the team out of camp, Iglesias is earning a bargain amount of $2.5 million this season with the chance to make an additional $1 million in bonus money based on games played. He has a chance to gain much of that bonus. When second baseman Scooter Gennett sustained a severe right groin strain on March 22, the injury prompted José Peraza to move over to replace him, which opened a spot for Iglesias. Dietrich has since taken most of the playing time at second base.
Defensively, Iglesias routinely makes most plays -- the routine, the dazzling and others that often appear improbable.
“The impact that he's had defensively -- you see him, he's one defender but how he impacts our pitching staff and the rest of our defense goes a long way,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I don't even know how to quantify it really, he just takes so many hits away, which takes the opposing offense's opportunities away. You threw less pitches as a staff, that's, defensively, he's made a huge difference. But offensively, he can hit. He can hit a fastball. He loves being up there in big spots, he's done it before. He's just a big-time player.”
In his 50 games, Iglesias is batting a team-leading .306/.337/.434 with four homers and 21 RBIs as he will likely become a free agent again heading into the offseason.
“I love the group,” said Iglesias. “I’m very happy to be a part of this organization. They welcome me like home. I’m extremely, extremely happy to be a part of this team and contribute to winning a game every single night.”