NEW YORK — Jose Iglesias started at third base for the Red Sox again on Saturday night and seems sure to stay there until Will Middlebrooks is activated off the disabled list.
Middlebrooks is eligible to return on June 8 and is on track to do so. His back strain has healed to a point where he will take batting practice on Sunday.
But Iglesias may not be headed back to Triple A Pawtucket. Sox manager John Farrell gave strong support to the idea that the 23-year-old could remain on the roster as a utility player.
“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here,” Farrell said. “He’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop.”
The Sox have cut back on the playing time of backup Pedro Ciriaco. He had eight plate appearances and one start from May 20-31.
Ciriaco was a surprising contributor last season after being signed a minor league free agent. But he has hit .239 this season and committed seven errors in 121 innings in the field.
Iglesias would offer the Sox a more reliable glove off the bench and more offensive potential based on his performance to date. Iglesias was hitting .435 in 14 major league games through Friday with a .460 on-base percentage.
His production at the plate as been a surprise given that Iglesias is a career .257 hitter in the minors, .244 in parts of three seasons at Triple A.
Farrell can’t explain the metamorphosis. In general, he said, perhaps there is a greater focus from pitch to pitch.
“I do know this: The one thing that he’s not doing, as we saw in spring training or even last year, is he’s not chasing the breaking ball as much,” Farrell said. “That’s a sign of maturity, of better pitch recognition and what opposing pitchers are trying to do to him. But there’s no denying he’s swung the bat very well here.”
Iglesias would likely play less in the majors than he would at Pawtucket, which could slow his development. But the needs of the team could outweigh that.
“Before that decision is made on whether he’s on the roster, we’re probably more open-minded to less than everyday at-bats than maybe we were previously,” Farrell said.
See the Globe tomorrow for more on Iglesias.