Rick Porcello was probably the happiest guy in the world when the Tigers traded for shortstop Jose Iglesias last season. A groundball pitcher matched up with a top-notch defensive shortstop is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Sadly for both of them, however, they won’t be together to kick off the season. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports that it “seems to be near-certain” Jose Iglesias will begin the season on the disabled list.
Iglesias was said to be improving and may very well be, but he is seeing another specialist today regarding the pain and stress he’s had in his shins (Brad Ausmus has been loathe to call it “shin splints,” though that’s how it has generally been described). Even if things are going well, it’s going to soon turn into a matter of not having enough reps under his belt before the team goes north, which would mean some extended spring training for Iglesias.
The most likely option for Ausmus at short would be to call up Hernan Perez or Eugenio Suarez to take over.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.