Report From The Fort: Escobar's Opportunity
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyOn Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium, the Twins played against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before the game, manager Paul Molitor talked to the assembled media.Earlier in the day, Polanco had spoken to his teammates and apologized to them for getting suspended. Moliitor said, “I don’t think I should be trying to even try to talk about something that personal would be appropriate.”
Polanco can’t play in major league games, but they will be checking to see when he can start playing in minor league games.
So the question turned to his shortstop position. Molitor said, “Esco’s going to get the chance to hopefully get. He’s going to get from now on the majority of the time. We don’t have a ton of games left. We’ll mix it up a little bit. He’s not going to be in all the games. We have to get Ehire in there too.
Molitor believes in Escobar. He’s been able to come through when needed in the past, and he hopefully will again. “It’s definitely helpful when something like this occurs and you can plug somebody in who is accustomed to playing significant roles in previous go-rounds, including last year where he not only filled in at third base for Miggy, but put him in some big slots in the lineup, and he was productive. He’s one of those guys who always says whenever you need me I’m going to be ready, and I need him.
Escobar started at shortstop for the Twins on Wednesday night, and when his outing was complete, he said that it meant a lot to have the manager’s confidence in him. He also feels that he’s earned the opportunities he’s been given because of his work ethic.
“I come in every day and work hard. All positions; third base, second base, shortstop. For me, I’ll be ready Any time he puts me in the lineup, I love it. I love to play the game. I love to hit. I just play and Molitor has given me a lot of opportunities. I work hard all the time and when I get the opportunities again, I’ll be ready.”
While we know that the advanced defensive metrics don’t grade out well for Escobar at shortstop, mostly due to some lack of range, Escobar has typically been reliable with the plays that he can get to.
Molitor noted, “We’ve seen him play it a lot over the last three or four years. He’s a steady defender. He’s an accurate thrower. My confidence is solid. He and Jorge are different in how they move and how they play, but more than one model works, so to speak.”
Ehire Adrianza, a very solid defender at shortstop, will fill Escobar’s role as the team’s top utility infielder. Then again, Derek Falvey said that they are still expecting to hear from MLB regarding a possible season-starting suspension for Miguel Sano which may alter this thinking. That decision will again impact that roster and the potential Opening Day roster and lineup.
ERICK AYBAR DECISION COMING SOON
A decision is also looming later this week on Erick Aybar. If he’s still on the roster after noon on Friday, he will receive a retention bonus of $100,000 because of his status as a XX-B player (basically a player with over six years of MLB service time who signed a minor league contract). He also has an opt-out in his contract, believed to be March 27th (next Tuesday).
As noted earlier in the week, Derek Falvey said that he only learned about Polanco’s suspension on Sunday morning so it was coincidental that the team signed Aybar to a minor league contract just less than a month ago. Falvey said that there were several reasons for signing Aybar including potential versatility.
“We talked to Torii Hunter at one point around... one thing we’ve said all along is that we’re looking for leadership in guys, guys that can impact our younger guys. That goes back to last year on some of the guys we acquired. That goes to Addison Reed and Zack Duke and other guys. We had heard that Erick Aybar was somebody who could be a great leader around some of our young Latin players.”
In his 12 year major league career, Erick Aybar has played a total of 1,337 games at shortstop, 55 games at second base, and 13 games at third base.
Aybar has played around the infield throughout spring training including time at third base on Wednesday night.
Molitor said, “”When he came into camp, we knew he would have to play around to see where he was at as far as being flexible on defense. He’s been open about it. Obviously he’s played a lot more short than anything else. He’s fine. I thought he made a nice play on a ball he knocked down and recovered tonight.”
While Molitor admitted that it’s been tougher to get him playing time of later with starters getting more work, it appears that he and the front office are comfortable with what they’ve learned about Aybar this spring. “We’ve got a good idea, not only what we’ve seen but who he is and what he’s done. We’ll see how it all comes together.”
Again, this situation does remain fluid pending an MLB decision on a potential Miguel Sano suspension. If nothing changes, it does appear that Sano would play third base with Escobar getting most of the shortstop innings. The Twins are prepared with contingency plans for the Sano situation. One would have to think that a suspension could move Escobar back over to third base with Ehire Adrianza moving in as the starting shortstop.