By the time Eduardo Escobar reported to the Aragua Tigers just after Christmas, only three games remained in the Venezuelan League’s regular season, and four in the postseason, as it turned out. So he didn’t demand to play shortstop, as he could have as a major league veteran, but chose to fill in at second base and designated hitter instead.
He hopes that’s not a harbinger of his sixth season with the Twins.
For the third time in four years, Escobar will report to camp in Fort Myers, Fla., next month with little certainty about his role but with the creeping feeling that he is considered Option B at shortstop. He has had to wait while Pedro Florimon and Danny Santana got first shot at the job in the past, and this year he is considered an underdog once more in a projected competition with second-year infielder Jorge Polanco.
“I don’t know what they’ll do,” Escobar said Sunday at TwinsFest in Target Field. “I’m working hard to get ready. I don’t see anything different this year until they come to tell me. I don’t know if I’m [the Twins] shortstop, but I’ll come to spring training ready.”
Escobar, who turned 28 on Jan. 5, has been taking ground balls at second base, third base and shortstop, just in case. If he doesn’t earn a starting job in spring training, he figures to be the primary backup to third baseman Miguel Sano, who played only 116 games in 2016, spending a month on the disabled list.
“Nobody has told me to play third base, so we’ll see,” said Escobar, who played there much of September after Sano and Trevor Plouffe were injured. “I can do it, but shortstop is still best.”
Escobar’s 2016 season was ruined by a pair of hamstring injuries and a significant decline at the plate — his slugging percentage plummeted by more than 100 points. He opened the season as the starting shortstop but lost his job first to Eduardo Nunez and eventually Polanco.
Castro says no to WBC
Jason Castro doesn’t know the name of the ancestor who made it possible for him to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. So maybe it’s just as well he has decided not to play.
“It’s best for the Twins, best for me, best for the pitching staff to stick with the team” in spring training, Castro said. “I’ve got a lot ahead of me, as far as learning these guys. Leaving in the middle of that would probably be unfair to everybody.”
Castro was contacted by the Mexican national team because of his rather tenuous connection to the country. “My great-grandfather was adopted in Mexico — that’s where the name ‘Castro’ comes from — but he was Native American,” the catcher said. “We don’t have records of what his last name was, so we can’t really trace back. … The lineage kind of stopped when he was adopted. There’s a lot of question marks in our family tree.”
U.S. Bank in 2019?
TwinsFest closed Sunday with 13,000-14,000 attendees, Twins President Dave St. Peter said, a modest decline that’s not surprising, given their 59-103 record in 2016. The addition of a “TwinsFest Tap Room,” serving a variety of beers, was particularly successful, St. Peter said.
The event will remain at Target Field next year, but the Twins have had discussions about expanding the event and moving it to U.S. Bank Stadium in 2019.
Next year’s TwinsFest will probably take place a week earlier, Jan. 19-21, to avoid competing with the beginning of Super Bowl LII activities that will dominate the Twin Cities before the Feb. 4 game. The Twins have offered Target Field to Super Bowl organizers and sponsors as a venue for hospitality events.