Thanks to 1500 ESPN, I was able to sneak down to Target Field last night for the opening game of four against the AL leading Texas Rangers. As has been somewhat of a common theme this year, Vance Worley and his bullpen cohorts were able to pitch themselves out of jams and keep the Twins in the game. Again, it was the offense that sputtered out of the gates and couldn’t get anything going against Rangers rookie Nick Tepesch. Tepesch was so in control that we looked up at the scoreboard to see his pitch count at just 68 entering the 7th inning. A bases loaded double play ball of the bat of Josh Willingham in the 8th and a warning track flyout from Ryan Doumit in the 9th sealed the fate of Game 1 of the series.
Walking away from the field last night, I had one thought on my mind – other than the 4 hour drive ahead of us, and the magnificent job by Rick Spielman at the NFL Draft last night. Why doesn’t Eduardo Escobar see more playing time? It’s not as though Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, and Trevor Plouffe are immovable objects in the regular lineup for this team, and if they are this is a problem. Escobar might be the best defender on the team with his slick glove and absolute rocket for an arm, as Craig Gentry found out last night. Although it’s only been 26 plate appearances, he’s also hitting .480 right now.
Escobar has made 5 starts so far this season, all at shortstop, and in those starts he is 9 for 18 (.500) with a walk and just 3 strikeouts. He’s got a triple, a home run, score three and driven in three in those 5 games as well. He has made solid contact at the plate about as well as anyone on the roster so far, and he’s got good speed to take extra bases and cause mayhem on the basepaths.
It’s a little difficult to say they should bench any of the other three infielders mentioned earlier. Dozier is coming around at the plate since moving to the leadoff role, and has been very solid defensively in his move to second base. Florimon has shown the ability to take really good at bats, but is in a 3 game slide at the plate and his average is down to .258. He’s also been suspect at times, despite his abilities, in the field in making routine plays. Plouffe is off to somewhat of a slow start at the plate, but his power potential is a necessity in the lineup – and his defense is, well, improving maybe.
What I would propose is something along these lines: Escobar plays three out of every four games, spelling each of the other three infielders once each time through. None of these four guys have really done anything to say they shouldn’t ever come out of the lineup, so why not give them all some regular playing time, and some regular rest? Do this for a while, and I bet the picture will become clearer and clearer if certain guys should be playing every day. Using Escobar nearly exclusively as a late-inning defensive replacement or pinch runner is wasting him right now, especially when the competition for playing time isn’t exactly Hall of Fame caliber talent.
Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.