Yes, Eduardo Escobar is comfortable playing nearly any position for the Minnesota Twins and even has enough versatility to show off his musical talents in the clubhouse. The 24-year-old Escobar is in his first full season with the Twins after being traded by the White Sox last year. In 12 games with Minnesota this year, Escobar has already played three different positions. He’s also the Twins’ third catcher in case something happens to Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit.
“I’ll play whatever position. I’m ready for it,” Escobar said. “If they need me in the game, whatever position, I can play.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire loves players who can move around the diamond. Escobar is no different.
“He’s been really good for us,” Gardenhire said before Thursday’s game against Texas. “He bounces around, has that smile. You’ll watch him go out there today and during batting practice he’s going to take ground balls everywhere. He’s going to throw it everywhere and turn double plays. He just goes about his business.”
Escobar says his favorite position of the many he’s played in shortstop. That’s also where he’s spent the most time so far this season for Minnesota — nine games — as he splits time with shortstop Pedro Florimon. But Escobar can also move around the infield to play second and third base. This spring, he even caught two innings in a minor league game.
For one game this season, Gardenhire had Escobar in left field after he used him as a pinch runner in the fifth inning when left fielder Wilkin Ramirez had to leave the game due to injury. Instead of moving people around to find someone to take over for Ramirez in left, Gardenhire kept Escobar there. It’s not a position that’s totally foreign to him, as he played a game there with the White Sox last season.
“He’s got a cannon for an arm,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said of Escobar. “You can put him anywhere on the diamond.”
As valuable as he’s been in the early goings of the 2013 season, Escobar’s Twins career got off to a bit of a rocky start. Minnesota acquired him along with Pedro Hernandez in a trade with Chicago for left-hander Francisco Liriano. But as soon as the trade was completed, both Escobar and Hernandez were optioned to Triple-A Rochester.
At the time it was a demotion for Escobar, who was playing in the majors on a semi-regular basis with the White Sox. He spent the next month in the minors. According to Twins general manager Terry Ryan, Escobar was none too thrilled about being optioned.
“When we got him, I probably devastated him by sending him back (to the minors),” Ryan said. “Consequently, the rest of the summer and the fall, I’m not sure he had his heart in this thing because he just came from a contender, he was very comfortable. We make the trade, I send him immediately to Triple-A because he didn’t have many at-bats. We did that for his development and for his purposes, not ours. …
“It would have been very easy to bring him here and let him sit, which is probably what would have happened. I don’t think I was too popular with Eduardo there when I optioned him out. But for the good of the player, we thought it was the right thing to do. So now all of a sudden, he’s looking fantastic.”
Escobar wound up playing in 14 games late in the season with the Twins as a September call-up. It was a much different setting than he was used to when he left a White Sox team contending for the division to join Minnesota, which went on to lose 96 games.
“I got very sad. My first trade in my career,” Escobar said. “But I’m very happy I got my opportunity here.”
Escobar has been an early-season surprise for the Twins. While he’s not an every-day starter, he seems to answer the call whenever he’s in the lineup. He’s also producing at the plate. Through Thursday, he’s 12-for-25 (.480) with a home run, a triple and five RBI. Escobar went 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Marlins.
“He knows his role right now,” Gardenhire said. “If he keeps swinging like he’s swinging, he’ll find more at-bats, too.”
Escobar’s versatility extends beyond the baseball field. Earlier this month, a drum sat near his locker in the Twins clubhouse and a group of reporters inquired about it. So the outgoing Escobar picked up the three-foot wood drum, or tambor, and starting playing a beat. As it turns out, Escobar is in a band in his native Venezuela with his brothers and their friends during the winter.
Perhaps he and the other Twins infielders could start up a band in Minnesota during the season.
“I’ve got to bring my guitar in here and we can jam out,” Dozier said. “We can put (Justin Morneau) on the spoons or something.”