NEW YORK — When Miguel Sano injured his left shin and went on the disabled list Aug. 20, he had 28 home runs, or roughly one for every 14.9 at-bats. Since Eduardo Escobar took over at Sano’s position full-time while he recuperates, the backup has homered eight times, or one every 13.6 at-bats.
Maybe the Twins were playing the wrong guy, Eduardo?
“No, no,” the ever-cheerful Escobar said with a laugh. “I’m just comfortable right now.”
Of course, Escobar believes that’s because Sano’s still not able to play.
“It’s mostly from playing every day. It’s easier to help the team when you play every day, because your mentality is relaxed,” Escobar said. “You don’t go to the plate thinking, ‘I must hit today.’ If you’re playing one or two [games] a week, it’s harder.”
Escobar has hit seven home runs in September, or three more than he’s ever had in a calendar month during his career. With 19 home runs this season, he’s on the cusp of giving the Twins four 20-homer hitters in a season for the first time since 2009.
“I’m not trying for home runs, I’m just trying to help the team,” Escobar said. “I’m happy it’s coming when we need it.”
Charity close to home
And speaking of helping people in need: Escobar’s foundation, represented by his mother, Adela, and employee Isla, delivered food, milk, water and diapers to a malnourished toddler and her family in the mountain town of San Fernando de Apure, Venezuela, on Monday morning. At roughly the same time, the MLB Players Association was naming Escobar a finalist for its highest honor for making possible exactly that kind of humanitarian aid.
“It all starts with me wanting to give back to my people in Venezuela, and help Venezuelans in need,” said Escobar, one of six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which will be voted on by MLB players this month. “It’s about how I grew up, the things I went through as my mom raised me. … We had to struggle a lot, had a lot of needs. So being able to give back to Venezuela, it’s important.”
Escobar began the Eduardo Escobar de la Pica Foundation last year, named for his hometown, and is planning a visit in December to deliver a planeload of supplies and medicine to a country in turmoil. If he wins the Miller Award — the other nominees, as chosen in an online vote, are the Angels’ Mike Trout, the Yankees’ David Robertson, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, the Mets’ Steven Matz and the Giants’ Buster Posey — he would receive a check from the MLBPA for $50,000 to add to the donation.
Monday’s news came with another big moment for Escobar, too: After quietly lobbying for an invitation for more than a year, he appeared on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” program with Brian Dozier. “That was big. I was pretty nervous,” said Escobar, who entertained by briefly singing “Little Red Corvette” and “Wild Thing.”
This series in New York could be especially beneficial, Twins manager Paul Molitor said, because if the Twins hold on to a wild-card spot, they will likely play on this same field in the one-game playoff Oct. 3. So it’s good that his young players get used to the atmosphere here now.
“I want to see how some of these guys respond. It’s always a little different here. You try to keep it as normal as you can, you try to be the same, but I’ve played here in October. It’s just got a different feel,” Molitor said. “ … So [these] games could be some help if we’re able to advance.”
Sano accompanied the Twins to New York, but only to take care of some personal business, though the Twins were hopeful he would be able to do some rehab work on his left shin, too.
He will return to the Twin Cities on Tuesday to resume that work full time, in hopes of being able to return before season’s end.