Escobar's bat adding to fine glove work

Escobar's bat adding to fine glove work

Escobar's bat adding to fine glove work
BALTIMORE -- After tweaking his swing, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has become a model of consistency.

Escobar hit just .235 in 2010 and .254 in 2011, his first two full Major League seasons. But so far in 2012, he's hitting .316, a change manager Ned Yost attributed to taking the "loop" out of Escobar's batting motion.

"He's got a flatter swing now," Yost said. "His bat stays through the strike zone longer, and it enables him to use the whole field better."

Instead of trying to consistently pull the ball to left, Escobar has started to use right-center field more effectively.

The 6-foot-1 Escobar also added muscle to his listed 190-pound frame.

"When I first saw him, he was like a broomstick," Yost said. "He always had good hands swinging, so once he filled out a little bit and got a little more strength, you could envision him being a pretty good hitter, and he's started to do that."

Even when Escobar was middling on offense, he won Yost over in the field. Escobar has made only four errors in 187 chances at short this season after finishing last season with a .980 fielding percentage, good for fourth among American League shortstops.

Now that he's producing at the plate, it's just a bonus.

"We used to be, anything you get out of him offensively is a plus because he's such a good defender," Yost said. "But I think he's going to be a guy that's going to be able to swing the bat, too, and give you some offensive production."

Yost moved Escobar up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order for the fifth time this season on Saturday. Escobar has batted at six different spots in the lineup, making a combined 34 starts in the eight- or nine-hole.

Yost has been searching for answers with his lineup all season, starting at least four different players in every spot in the order. His most popular shuffles have been at No. 2 and No. 7, where he's tried 10 different options.

"It's like trying to catch lightning in a bottle when you start screwing with the lineup," Yost said. "I just try to take advantage of who is hot now and try to get them in front of guys that are hot. We need to get our lineup going so we can just set it and just leave it. Not moving guys around. Nothing you can do but wait it out, just keep working and wait it out."