SARASOTA, Fla. - José Iglesias won’t say that the offseason has treated him much kinder than last winter, offering a shrug of his shoulders and a search for the right words. But there’s still that trace of confusion over having to settle for a minor league contract in late February.
It couldn’t have been his defensive credentials, which earn the highest levels of praise. To say he carries a plus glove leaves him short of one “plus.”
“I don’t want to say it was better. It was just different,” Iglesias said this morning before the Orioles held their workout for players who didn’t make the trip to Clearwater.
“I get the opportunity to come here on a big league deal. Like last year was a minor league deal, which was disgusting. I get to come here and lead by example and just be who I am, a guy who’s going to play every day, a guy that’s going to lead by example and do the best I can for this organization.”
The Orioles narrowed their shortstop search to Iglesias and gave him a one-year deal with an option for 2021 that can bring his total earnings to $6 million He’s guaranteed $3 million, including a $500,000 buyout.
The $3.5 million club option further enticed Iglesias and provided some insurance for executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias if no one in the farm system is ready to handle the position.
“It’s a more comfortable situation for me,” Iglesias said. “Another year with the guys. And we have a great young team that is going to continue to develop and be ready to win soon.”
The rebuild and lowered expectations for the upcoming season didn’t bother Iglesias, who made the Reds out of spring training last year after accepting the minor league deal.
“It’s a process that the organization is going through, but I don’t want to say we’re not ready to win because I don’t believe that,” he said. “I believe we have good, young talent that can compete and hopefully we’re going to do our best every day to make something happen.
“It’s been great. It’s a good group that I’m very happy to be a part of and it’s been great so far. They welcomed me and I’m accepted really well here.”
One of the familiar sights in camp is Iglesias and Richie Martin working out at shortstop on a couple of the back fields. Martin is competing for a utility job because of the Iglesias signing.
“I haven’t seen him much,” Iglesias said. “We just take ground balls and stuff like that. It’s a young player that anything I can do to make him better, I’ll be there for him. That’s what I’m here for. And also to perform.”
Iglesias is back in the American League, where he played for the Red Sox and Tigers before last season.
“National League is good baseball as well,” he said. “I got an opportunity to play National League last year for the first time in my career and it was fine, it was fine. It’s a little bit trickier situation sometimes with the pitcher behind and this and that, but American League has always been for me.”
Tom Eshelman is starting against the Red Sox Tuesday afternoon in a split-squad game in Fort Myers as the replacement for Kohl Stewart, who’s been pushed back a few days. Left-hander John Means opposes Rays veteran Charlie Morton in Sarasota.
Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann starts against the Braves, his former organization, Wednesday in Sarasota.
Zimmermann was part of the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade in 2018.
* Left-hander Richard Bleier tossed a scoreless seventh inning yesterday in an 11-5 win over the Red Sox. He induced three ground balls, but also walked former Orioles outfielder John Andreoli.
“It was fine,” said Bleier, who no longer is a health riddle in camp after still going through the recovery process last spring from his lat surgery. “I did some things that I’m happy with and some things where there’s room for improvement.
“The walk, I’m not worried about it. It’s not an issue in the long term, but I made some nice pitches and tried to do some things that I don’t usually do and didn’t quite work out and I think that’s what put me in the hole. So I’m just working on things - the old spring training working on things - but I’m trying to be competitive, too. It’s a major league baseball game in some capacity.
“I’m happy that ... I hate to talk about my velocity, but this time last year I was like 84-85 mph, so to see an 89 on the board this early in spring was exciting.”
Minor league shortstop Mason McCoy made a sensational diving backhanded stop and throw to rob Josh Ockimey and end the inning. Bleier waited by the mound to tap McCoy.
“Really nice athletic play,” Bleier said. “Pretty surprising honestly that he got to it. I was very impressed with his athletic ability there on that play. A very nice play.”