Escobar has huge day in surprise start

Escobar has huge day in surprise start

MINNEAPOLIS -- After starting shortstop Jorge Polanco went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in an Opening Day win on Monday, it was a surprise to see Eduardo Escobar in the lineup at shortstop against the Royals on Wednesday.

Twins manager Paul Molitor said the rationale was simple -- he wanted to get Escobar into a game early in the season. But Molitor's decision more than paid off, as Escobar drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single as part of a three-run third before crushing a three-run homer to cap a six-run seventh in a 9-1 win over the Royals at Target Field. He also made an impressive defensive play in the ninth, getting Eric Hosmer with a stop while ranging to his right before unleashing a spinning throw to first.

"He was excited to play," Molitor said. "I'm just trying to get everybody in so they feel like they're part of the mix. He's been a good warrior. It's been tough on him because he was a regular, but now he's more of a utility guy. The first hit was huge on the 0-2 breaking ball and then on the home run he saw a fastball and timed it well."

Escobar's RBI single

As Molitor noted, Escobar's one-out RBI single in the second off right-hander Ian Kennedy came on a 0-2 curveball, and was an unlikely outcome, as Escobar entered as a career .173 hitter on 0-2 pitches, while Kennedy had limited opposing hitters to a .150 average on 0-2 offerings in his career.

"I wanted that pitch down by the back foot and just left it over the plate," Kennedy said. "It doesn't move when you leave it there."

Escobar's three-run homer

Escobar's homer off Royals lefty Matt Strahm, however, was a no-doubter, leaving the bat at 104.8 mph and going a projected 404 feet to left, per Statcast™. It was one of two balls on the day categorized as "barreled" by Statcast™, joining Miguel Sano's triple to right-center that also had an exit velocity of 104.8 mph.

"I just go out there and try to hit the ball hard," Escobar said through translator Carlos Font. "Today was a testament to that. I'm just trying to help the team win."

Escobar's excellent stop

Escobar also contributed with his glove with his solid play in the ninth, helping Rule 5 Draft pick Justin Haley throw a 1-2-3 inning in his Major League debut.

"It was a good play," Escobar said. "I got a little tangled up with my feet, but it was a great play. It was another chance for us to make a play, and we came through with it."

Escobar, though, doesn't know when his next start will be, but said he'll be prepared for it, just like he was on Wednesday.

"I've always said I'm ready whenever they need me," Escobar said. "Anything I can do to help the team win. Today was another showing of that."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.