8/17/2013 10:04 P.M. ET
Tigers gauging Iglesias' offensive potential
By Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The Tigers knew immediately what they were getting from Jose Iglesias defensively when they pulled off the trade two weeks ago. That was evident from his first game at shortstop last week in Cleveland.
His offense, by contrast, is a whole different question.
"That's a heckuva question, to be honest with you," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday.
While Iglesias' defense has drawn comparisons to Omar Vizquel, many in baseball have wondered if the offense might be the same -- decent average, sporadic power, good speed, .700 OPS. At least one scout compared his hitting to Rey Ordonez, another slick-fielding shortstop who finished his nine-year Major League career with a .600 career OPS, three points lower than Ramon Santiago's current mark. Iglesias' hot start offensively in Boston this year knocked all of those comparisons out of whack.
The Tigers believe he could fall on the higher end of that offensive scale. Exactly where his potential lies, and the best way to get it out of him, is the challenge at this point.
"We haven't had him long," Leyland said, "so as a manager you're taking a chance. [The Tigers] just got their shortstop of the future, and you don't want to dampen him or anything. Off the top of my head, from what I've seen so far, he's got some sock in his bat, but he probably swings a little bit too much like a big man.
"Now, in saying that, he's been hitting .300 all year, so you have to be careful with that as a manager."
Iglesias left Boston batting .330 (71-for-215) with 10 doubles, two triples, a home run, 19 RBIs, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts. He entered Saturday batting .208 (10-for-48) as a Tiger, with a home run as his lone extra-base hit, and 11 strikeouts against two walks.
Both cases are small sample sizes. The Tigers are left to judge on what they see mechanically from him. With his speed, Iglesias has the potential as a weapon on base if he can put the ball in play and hit to all fields. Getting him there, though, might require some tweaks to the swing.
"As a manager, it's a very delicate situation when you're messing with somebody that's had some success up here hitting," Leyland said. "You have to be very careful with that. I'm not Mugwumping your question. I'm just saying that I see some things and [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] sees some things that we think will help him for the future."
That future, as in beyond this season, might be where any major changes are left to do. For the present, changes might be subtle.
"I'll tell you why this will be very workable: He's very bright," Leyland continued. "He's really a smart baseball player. For a young guy, he's very instinctive and he's very smart, and he'll figure some things out.
"... I don't want to take any of the spirit out of this kid, because I love what I see. I am a huge fan already. I love him. I think he's going to be one heckuva player. And you don't expect him to be the finished product already."
Infante exits game with lower back spasms
DETROIT -- Tigers second baseman Omar Infante has been back for nearly a week after missing more than a month with a sprained left ankle. On Saturday, however, his back was the problem that knocked him out.
Infante left the game against the Royals in the seventh inning with lower back spasms, the Tigers announced, and is considered day to day.
Before the game, Infante said he's still working his left ankle back to full strength. He made a nice play and whirling throw behind first base on David Lough's ground ball in the top of the sixth inning. He was spotted in the Tigers' dugout in the bottom of the inning, but did not emerge for the seventh. Ramon Santiago replaced him at second base.
Infante has been charged with one error since his return on Monday.
Cabrera still hurting, but getting better
DETROIT -- While it has been easy to tell that Miguel Cabrera isn't 100 percent healthy by the way he runs around the bases, he has been feeling better lately.
"What a trooper. The legs look better," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I do check on him in the trainer's room and I go in there when they are working on him, and the bruise is starting to shrink a little bit. It was a nasty one. Overall, I think he's getting a little better."
Cabrera is battling a strained abdomen that's plagued him for the past month as well as also being hobbled by a bruise on his shin and a sore knee that he hurt in an at-bat last week against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Despite the injuries, Cabrera is batting .352 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 14 games this month.
"I'm totally amazed what I'm seeing, because I can't believe what I'm seeing, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "You just want to make sure when you see it every day that you just don't take it for granted."
Leyland finds defense to be issue for many pitchers
DETROIT -- It seems like a simple play when a pitcher is forced to field his position or make a pickoff attempt and make a throw to a base. Yet it appears to be anything but easy with how many throws end up going down the right-field line.
Jeremy Bonderman's two-base throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the second game of the Tigers' doubleheader on Friday was just the latest example. Entering Saturday, there have been 231 errors committed by pitchers this season.
"Well, I think sometimes they are so focused on throwing the ball at that little area behind the plate that when you ask them to do something different it's a totally mind-confusing thing for them," manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't think there's any question about that."
For the Tigers, it brings back the painful memories of five errors by Detroit pitchers in the 2006 World Series. There's an advantage for hitters who are fast runners that can lay down a decent bunt and force a throw from a pitcher.
"We work every day in Spring Training, talking about bringing the ball in, boom, throw it to first base," Leyland said. "If you watch a ground ball to the pitcher tonight that's to his left one step, he's going to run over and flip it underhand to the first baseman. So it shows you they're just not comfortable doing these things."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.