The hope is that the touted middle infielder returns tonight.

No, not that one.

While all of Red Sox Nation anticipates second baseman Dustin Pedroia back in the Boston lineup tonight at Fenway Park, fans at Hadlock Field look forward to someone else coming back: shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Red Sox Personnel Director Mike Hazen confirmed Iglesias will be back with the Sea Dogs tonight when they begin a six-game homestand with a 7 o’clock game against Altoona.

Iglesias, 20, the touted Cuban shortstop signed to an $8.2 million contract, has been out of the Sea Dogs’ lineup since he was hit by a pitch May 29. The diagnosis evolved from deep bone bruise to slight fracture of a knuckle on his right hand.

Iglesias’ healing process has been slow, but he finally began a rehab assignment with the Lowell Spinners two weeks ago. Playing mostly as the designated hitter, Iglesias batted .350 (14 for 40). He played the field twice late last week.

 

Before Iglesias was injured, he was leading the Sea Dogs in batting (.306 average), with nine doubles and three triples, while showing off a quick glove and strong arm in the field.

Because Iglesias is on the Red Sox 40-man roster, and because he is considered the future shortstop in Fenway, Iglesias could get a major league call-up in September when rosters expand.

But for the next three weeks, he belongs to Portland.

 

PEDROIA’S RETURN comes at a time when the Red Sox are facing a string of home games and must make a run if they are to reach the playoffs.

Heading into Monday’s games – Detroit at New York, and Texas at Tampa Bay – the idle Red Sox trailed the Yankees by six games in the American League East, and Tampa Bay by five games for the wild-card spot.

Boston plays nine straight games at Fenway Park, before a six-game trip.

Pedroia, who turns 27 today, has been on the disabled list since June 26 after breaking his left foot when he fouled a pitch off it.

Before the injury, Pedroia was batting .292 with 41 RBI and 52 runs. His presence fortifies the top of the lineup and the defense.

 

IN PORTLAND, Iglesias will not be leading the Sea Dogs to the playoffs. Portland (58-62), with 21 games to play, is 11 games out of a postseason spot.

Trenton (72-49) and New Hampshire (69-51) are on their way to becoming the two playoff teams out of the Eastern League East Division.

But for Sea Dogs followers, there are plenty of Boston prospects to watch besides Iglesias.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo has been on a tear, batting .364 in August with five home runs and 21 RBI.

Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin is hitting .380 in his last 16 games and catcher Luis Exposito is batting .304 in his last 15 games with three home runs and 18 RBI.

The series with Altoona continues through Thursday, which is a noon game. Then Trenton comes to town for a three-game series.

 

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: [email protected]