Monday, April 28, 2014

A change at shortstop?

Eduardo Escobar:
Is he about to claim
the shortstop job?
The Twins lineup for Sunday's game was posted before the postponement was announced, and I noticed that Eduardo Escobar was at shortstop for the second straight game.

Escobar for one game — especially a day game after a night game, as Saturday's start was — would be nothing out of the ordinary. Two games in a row suggests something else in play.

Ron Gardenhire has made his discontent with Pedro Florimon's anemic offense known the past few weeks, but most of the speculation about who would take over the position seems to have centered on Eduardo Nunez, picked up on waivers from the Yankees.

The problem with that notion: Nunez hasn't played a lot of shortstop at Triple A Rochester since the Twins picked him up. Danny Santana is there, and the Twins imagine a future with him securing the shortstop position for several years at least. I'm not as optimistic, but the point is: Developing Santana is a priority.

Plus, Nunez has pretty well established in New York that he's not a quality defensive shortstop, and the Minnesota pitching staff needs all the help it can get from its infield, especially considering the limited range of the outfielders.

Escobar is a more logical alternative if the Twins are about to pull the plug on Florimon as the regular. For one thing, while nobody should expect Escobar to be an offensive force, he has done some hitting in the minors — including a .307/.380/.500 slash line last year in Rochester (just 188 plate appearances).

Unlike Nunez, he is regarded as a capable defensive shortstop (he won the Gold Glove in the Venezulean Winter League during the offseason). I don't know how he compares to Florimon, but presumably the Twins think more highly of Florimon's defense. But no shortstop fields well enough to get away with hitting .115 for April.

I can foresee the Twins bringing Nunez up to take Escobar's utility role, with Escobar taking the regular shortstop job from Florimon. I can't see Nunez getting the shortstop job straight up.

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Today is the fourth Monday of the month, so it's time for my scheduled stint on KMSU's Southern Minnesota Midday show with Jim "Gully" Gullickson, talking baseball and the Twins at 1 p.m. For those of you within range, KMSU is 89.7 FM (91.3 out of Austin); for those out of range, we'll put a link to a recording on the Free Press website later in the afternoon.

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