Gold Glove winner? All-Star? It's all on the table for Royals' Escobar
JUN 12, 2014 12:57p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Theories abound why Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar could be headed toward a career year.
Is it the influence of second baseman Omar Infante?
"I think that has a lot to do with it," manager Ned Yost says. "He's around Omar every day, picking his brain, learning all the things a veteran like Omar knows.
"It can't help but to influence him."
Escobar does recognize the impact Infante has had on him.
"Omar has played like 11 years," Escobar says. "He knows the game so I listen to him every day, inside and outside the (clubhouse). I can learn from him.
"I feel like family with him. We speak the same language."
Another theory is maturity. Escobar and his wife, Francys, had their first child in March, a boy named Massimiliano.
"It changes you when you're responsible for a child," Yost says. "You have no choice but to grow up. Not that he was immature, but it just changes your approach to life."
Escobar simply smiles when he is asked about his family.
"It's nice," he says. "You know, Omar has a little baby, too. Two months. I've got one four months."
This much we know: Escobar is hitting .287 with a .328 on-base percentage, comparing favorably to his best season in 2012 when he hit .293/.331.
Defensively, we all see the highlight-reel plays Escobar makes on a routine basis, going in the hole and gunning down a runner from the outfield grass or darting to his left, then doing a whirling 360 to make a throw to first.
And Escobar also is harassing opponents on the basepaths. He is 17 of 18 in stolen bases this year, third best in the league. In fact, Escobar is 39 of 40 in that department over the last two seasons.
"I feel like it's a big part of my game -- my legs," he says.
It sure was again Wednesday afternoon when Escobar somehow bolted home safely on a sacrifice fly to the shortstop. Escobar tagged when Infante hit a pop-up to former Royal Mike Aviles, who struggled picking the ball up out of the sun.
"I knew it would be a tough play," Escobar says. "He lost the ball for like one moment. I'm thinking I can go."
When Aviles caught the ball and tumbled to the ground, Escobar took off. Aviles fired toward home plate from the seat of his pants and the ball was cut off by the pitcher, who threw wildly to the plate. Escobar was safe.
"That play," first baseman Eric Hosmer said at the time, "set the tone for the game."
Escobar just shrugs his shoulders.
"People say, 'How you do that?' I say, 'I play hard,' " he says. "I'm running hard, all the time."
It was a game ultimately won, 4-1, by the Royals and a game that had Escobar's imprint all over it. He had three hits, legging out two infield hits, delivered a big sacrifice fly and stole a base.
It also was the type of game that should continue to impress outside observers, so much so that Escobar could wind up being picked for his first All-Star Game.
That's how Yost sees it.
"I don't want to jinx it, but yeah, I hope so," Yost says. "I hope he gets the Gold Glove, too. He's deserving. You almost take it for granted the plays he can make."
Escobar doesn't concern himself with such thoughts.
"I don't ever think about that," he says. "I just think about playing with my head down and play hard."
And he's certainly doing that.
"He's taken his game to the next level," Yost says. "We all can see that."