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Orioles’ José Iglesias taking on outsized role on and off the field in first week of season

José Iglesias came to the Orioles this offseason hoping to lead by example and be a model of consistency for a young team full of players hoping to grow into reliable contributors.

That role has proven to be one he’s fit well through an impressive start at the plate to go along with his reliable shortstop defense. And at a time when the Orioles might need a veteran to show the way more than ever, questions now arise as to whether Iglesias will be able to fill that role.

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Before Wednesday night’s 9-3 loss to the New York Yankees, manager Brandon Hyde said veteran first baseman Chris Davis was “unavailable” and not at the ballpark, and would not say whether it was a baseball reason.

After, Hyde said that he pulled Iglesias from Wednesday’s game after six innings because he’s dealing with a sore quadriceps that limited him on the bases on his first-inning double and in his ensuing two at-bats. Iglesias was out of the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Yankees.

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Even if it was a precaution, it’s a notable one, considering the Orioles got two days off because of the Miami Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak for Iglesias to rest. It’s a necessary one, though, considering what the Orioles’ roster looks like outside of him.

If Davis has any kind of prolonged absence, Iglesias’ role in his new clubhouse as an example will become even more vital. He and Davis are by far the most experienced position players on the Orioles’ roster. After them, second baseman Hanser Alberto has the most service time among the club’s hitters — and is the only hitter making above the league minimum.

Some of those young players are off to good starts, such as Rio Ruiz, Anthony Santander and Austin Hays. But no one on the Orioles has hit as well as Iglesias, who has eight hits — including four doubles — and has driven in three runs in 16 at-bats.

Iglesias’ 2019 with the Cincinnati Reds was his best season since he was an All-Star in 2015 for the Detroit Tigers. What he’s done in a small sample size for the Orioles is different than anything he’s done before.

He’s been likened to Alberto in his ability to make contact and put the ball in play, but it’s been hard contact recently. Him hitting the ball over Aaron Judge’s head for a run-scoring double Wednesday was evidence of that.

Hyde and the Orioles will hope that Iglesias’ quad issue isn’t serious. He also missed time with what was initially described as cramps in that area in March, and missed time during summer camp with a back issue.

Iglesias wants to be around to help, too.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “I take it one day at a time and do everything I can to help this team. It’s very fun to see young players like Rio and Austin going up there and competing, getting better each and every day. I really love where we’re at.”

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