HOUSTON – Eduardo Escobar talks about collecting doubles a lot like he hits them. He is fast out of the box, gets worked up as he sees an opportunity, and by the time he’s finished, he’s shouting. “C’mon, Escobar!” he yelled during a clubhouse interview on the subject. “Let’s go!”
That sort of enthusiasm has made the cheerful Venezuelan one of the biggest surprises of the Twins’ season. Expected to play a couple of times a week as a utility infielder, Escobar has become the starting shortstop and made doubles his specialty. He entered Tuesday with 31, the fifth-highest total in the American League, one ahead of former MVPs Dustin Pedroia and Albert Pujols.
Escobar laughs at the mention of the game’s superstars. “I don’t know if I’m one of those guys,” he said. “But just like them, I get an opportunity to play every day, and it helps your hitting. When you hit every day, you have more chances for doubles.”
Escobar isn’t shy about admitting that he is always thinking two bases. “When I’m hitting, I’m going to hustle to second,” he said. “You run hard, you can make it.” He even ran through a stop sign from first base coach Paul Molitor on Monday en route to another double.
“Why would you listen to a Hall of Famer?” manager Ron Gardenhire joked. “He’s got his [doubles], let Escobar get his now.”
Even Gardenhire admits to being surprised by Escobar’s season, which by some statistical measures is the best by a Twins shortstop since Cristian Guzman in 2001.
“He’s not like a big gap-to-gap guy, but he’ll pull balls down lines. He runs enough to be able to get there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got little bitty legs and they really go. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but he gets there.”
Escobar entered Tuesday hitting .278 but with only a .320 on-base percentage because he doesn’t walk much. “Yes, a manager would like every player to get on base more, [but] he’s a swinger. He’s going to swing out of the zone every once in a while, and we know he’s going to connect on a lot of those pitches,” Gardenhire said.
Still, Gardenhire would like to give Danny Santana, whom he considers the team’s shortstop of the future, playing time at the position. “But Escobar’s playing so well, I don’t want to move him,” Gardenhire said. “We’re still trying to figure out how this is all going to play out.”
Escobar thinks he knows how it plays out: With more doubles. “[Nine] more,” he said. “I want to get to 40. C’mon, Escobar!”
Buxton on the move
Byron Buxton, the Twins’ top all-around prospect, is expected to make his debut at Class AA New Britain on Wednesday after being called up from Class A Fort Myers.
Buxton, who missed most of the season’s first three months due to a recurring left wrist injury, was batting only .240 with four home runs for the Miracle, and he was 5-for-32 in his past eight games. But the Twins determined that the 20-year-old outfielder is healthy and ready for New Britain.
• Ricky Nolasco will throw in the Target Field bullpen on Wednesday, and if he reports no issues, he likely will be activated Friday to start against the Royals. Nolasco, on the disabled list since July 8 because of elbow soreness, likely will be on an 80-pitch limit in his return, Gardenhire said, though “I’m sure he’ll probably fight the whole system because he feels he’s really ready to go.”
• Oswaldo Arcia returned to the Twins lineup after missing three games because of a sore lower back and hit two home runs. He lashed a line-drive shot into the right-field seats in his first at-bat in the second inning and added a two-run shot to left in the ninth.