KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals have been searching for a leadoff man all season.
They’ve tried Nori Aoki. They’ve tried Lorenzo Cain. They’ve tried Jarrod Dyson. They even pondered putting Alex Gordon back in the spot.Gordon held the job for the better part of three seasons until the Royals put him in the middle of the order this year.
None of the experiments truly worked to the Royals’ satisfaction.
But shortstop Alcides Escobar, of all players, seems to have locked down the job not just now, but perhaps for next season as well.
Yes, that Alcides Escobar, the free swinger, a potentially permanent leadoff man.
"He could be the guy," general manager Dayton Moore said. "You never know. He’s doing a nice job right now. Still needs to see more pitches.
"But I like the fact that he’s trying to learn it. He’s working at it."
Most important, the Royals are winning with Escobar leading off.
Since manager Ned Yost made the switch in mid-September, putting Esky in the leadoff role, the Royals are 17-6.
In the last 15 games of the regular season, Escobar hit .375 from the leadoff spot with a .412 on-base percentage.
He has been holding his own from that spot in the playoffs — .278 with a .297 on-base percentage, one homer, one steal and three RBI.
Yost, naturally, won’t commit to anything beyond the moment.
"All I’m worried about is right now," Yost said. "He’s doing a good job. And Aoki is doing a nice job at No. 2. And Lorenzo at No. 3."
Escobar would love to win the job permanently.
"Yes, I like hitting up there," he said. "But I just want to do whatever helps this team win."
Escobar says he learns a bit more about being a good leadoff hitter with each game.
"You try to take more pitches there," he said. "You try to let your teammates see the pitches the pitcher has that day. And you try to get on base and make things happen."
Of course, taking pitches and drawing walks never has been Escobar’s strength. He has just one walk in the postseason.
But he’s trying. And his teammates see a player in Escobar who is eager to lead the offense from the top.
"He can really do a lot of things to help us from that spot," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "He can hit and run. He can get on and steal. He can bunt.
"The bottom line is, it’s working. We’re winning. Why not have him lead off next year? Don’t change it if it’s working."