Escobar swinging hot bat in limited role

Nunez's emergence cuts into playing time for Opening Day shortstop

Escobar swinging hot bat in limited role

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins came into this season expecting Eduardo Escobar, their Opening Day shortstop, to be a valuable piece of their lineup. What they hadn't counted on was that Eduardo Nunez, whom they expected would play a utility role, would provide All-Star-level production from the plate and take over a starting role on the left side of the infield.

But even though Escobar's opportunities have decreased due to Nunez's hot bat, he has made the most of his limited at-bats, continuing to provide the consistency the Twins had come to expect from him before the season and forcing Twins manager Paul Molitor to continue finding ways to get his bat in the lineup.

"I've had to talk to him because his playing time has been reduced," Molitor said. "He was not happy about it, but he understands the circumstances, and I told him just to keep himself ready."

Escobar homered in two consecutive games entering Sunday's series finale against the Yankees. He followed up a three-hit game on Friday with a two-hit game on Saturday, marking just his second time this season with back-to-back multi-hit games.

"We got him in there a few days ago, he had a good day, and we got to where I've been able to play him a couple days consecutively now," Molitor said. "He's responded."

He was hitting .340/.358/.500 since his return on May 23 from the disabled list after recovering from a left groin strain. His .375 average in June led the team and his .407 on-base percentage this month trailed only Robbie Grossman (.419) and Brian Dozier (.413).

Escobar started at shortstop on Sunday afternoon, marking the first time in seven series that he has started every game of a series. Molitor has had to get creative to keep Escobar in ballgames, and Sunday's starting lineup brought a new wrinkle, with third baseman Trevor Plouffe getting his first start of the season at first base and Nunez moving to third. First baseman Joe Mauer got the start at DH, with Byung Ho Park receiving a day off.

"It's just one of those things where given our record and how we're playing, I'm open-minded every day coming in here of how to assemble who's going to be in that starting lineup," Molitor said.

Worth noting

• Reliever Trevor May was originally scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Sunday but had it postponed to Tuesday following some mechanical work Saturday. He was placed on the disabled list June 10 with lower back spasms.

• Outfielder Miguel Sano will have a rigorous workout during the Twins' off-day on Monday to evaluate his recovery from a hamstring strain. Molitor said Sano is swinging well but his running isn't where it needs to be, and a rehab assignment would be considered only after a satisfactory full-speed workout.

• Molitor said the at-bats are "speeding up" for outfielder Byron Buxton, who has struck out in seven of his last nine plate appearances. Buxton was given the day off Sunday, with Danny Santana earning the start in center.

"You can see him almost trying not to strike out rather than maybe thinking how he's going to try to get a hit here as the count gets deeper," Molitor said.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.