Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias has significant injuries to both shins that are expected to keep him out at least until the All-Star break and could force him to miss most or all of the 2014 season, a baseball source confirmed to ESPN.com on Saturday.
The news is a major blow to the Tigers, who are overwhelming favorites to win a fourth straight AL Central title this season.
Detroit general manager David Dombrowski told reporters Sunday that Iglesias will begin the season on the disabled list. He also said that Iglesias will visit a specialist at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado on Tuesday. The Tigers expect to have more insight into the extent of Iglesias's injuries after that visit.
Also Sunday, manager Brad Ausmus declined comment on Iglesias' injuries.
"We should have more in a couple of days," he said.
Detroit starter Justin Verlander, who underwent core muscle surgery in the offseason, said it might be a relief for Iglesias to finally get a definitive answer on the source of his shin problems so that he can have "closure'' and move forward.
"I know he was grinding last year and didn't know why he couldn't get over his injury," Verlander told reporters Sunday. "This is horrible news for him and us. But sometimes it's a sigh of relief to say, 'OK I know what the problem is and I can attack that.' That's the mentality that I had and pretty much all athletes have: 'OK, I know what's wrong. Now I fix it and do the best I can to get back out there.'"
Iglesias, acquired by Detroit from the Boston Red Sox in a three-team trade in July, is regarded as one of baseball's top defensive shortstops and was expected to help stabilize the team's infield this season. The Tigers have a rookie at third base in Nick Castellanos and are breaking in a new second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who came over from Texas in a trade for Prince Fielder during the offseason.
The Tigers have no clear replacement for Iglesias on their current roster. Utilitymen Steve Lombardozzi and Danny Worth and minor leaguers Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez have been playing shortstop in the Grapefruit League while Iglesias has been out of the lineup.
If the Tigers decide to look outside the organization for a replacement, one possibility is free agent Stephen Drew, who hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs in 124 games with Boston last season. Drew remains unsigned four months after declining a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox.
Drew and Iglesias both played for the Red Sox last season before the latter was dealt to the Tigers just before the trade deadline.
If the Tigers decide to explore the trade market for a cheaper alternative to Drew, Seattle's Nick Franklin is another possibility. He was displaced as Seattle's second baseman when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract over the winter. Franklin arrived in spring training as a candidate to play shortstop in Seattle, but Brad Miller, his competition at the position, has a 1.373 OPS in 10 Cactus League games.
The Mets and Rays are among several other clubs that have been mentioned in speculation as potential suitors for Franklin.