Infiielder offers 'bit of comic relief' in blowout loss
By Do-Hyoung Park
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins position players have regaled manager Paul Molitor with claims of knuckleballs, split-fingers and more in futile requests to pitch in a game.
When the situation finally arose, it was shortstop Eduardo Escobar who made his first career appearance on the mound for the Twins in the ninth inning of Thursday afternoon's 15-7 loss to the Astros in the first half of a day-night doubleheader.
Molitor chose Escobar because he believed his shortstop's arm would be the most resilient. As a precautionary measure, Molitor just asked Escobar not to throw it too hard and to focus on getting the ball over the plate.
"And then he's hitting 90 [mph]," Molitor said with a chuckle.
"I don't think he heard a word I said to him when he went in there."
Escobar was the 12th Twins position player to pitch and the first since outfielder Shane Robinson on Aug. 8, 2015, against the Indians. He roused the crowd with his 90-mph heat and mixed in three curveballs for good measure. And to be fair, he had heard his manager's instructions.
"[Molitor] told me not to throw it too hard, to be careful, but I didn't want to go up there and throw it too slow," Escobar said through an interpreter. "I put a little bit on it. Like I said, I wasn't looking at the gun or anything, but I knew I was throwing it hard."
Escobar moved from shortstop to the mound after left-hander Taylor Rogers issued two walks, committed a throwing error and allowed a two-run single to open the ninth, stretching Houston's lead to 15-6. He was the sixth pitcher to appear in the game for the Twins.
After allowing a single to his first batter, Preston Tucker, Escobar retired three straight Astros, aided by a diving catch in right field by Max Kepler that robbed A.J. Reed of a hit.
Escobar also did a pretty good job of keeping the ball in the zone, throwing 10 of his 16 pitches for strikes.
Thanks to Escobar's arm, Twins position players extended their scoreless innings streak to five spanning five appearances over six seasons. Michael Cuddyer, Drew Butera, Jamey Carroll and Robinson have all contributed to that effort.
"It's a little bit of comic relief to not a very good day," 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.