Royals go full youth movement as Esky’s streak expected to end against Rangers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The end is near.
No, not for the season, although for the Kansas City Royals, it can’t come soon enough. Shortstop Alcides Escobar’s string of starting 406 consecutive games at shortstop might be coming to an end.
Escobar may or may not be at shortstop Wednesday night when the Royals close out a three-game series against the Texas Rangers. It will also be the finale of an eight-game homestand with the Royals failing to collect a victory in the first seven.
The Royals are in a full-fledged youth movement with a 22-51 record. Escobar, 31, is not part of the future. The Royals are optimistic Adalberto Mondesi, 22, will be.
“Esky’s been our shortstop for a long time,” Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday. “It’s a pretty big change, seeing somebody different at short, but it’s exciting, too because now you’re starting to give other younger players opportunities to see what they can do.”
Escobar has been the Royals starting shortstop since he arrived in 2011 from the Milwaukee Brewers as part of the Zack Greinke deal. He started for the American League in the 2015 All-Star game, claimed a Gold Glove that year and the Royals won the World Series.
The Royal re-signed him to a one-year contract during the winter after he declared for free agency.
“It’s a good chance to experiment right now,” Yost said. “There’s nothing that is going to make or break us. You can start looking at thing a little bit differently and start experimenting with some things.”
He said he plans to play Mondesi a couple of games a week at shortstop, which is his natural position. Meanwhile, he said he would use Escobar in different positions, including center field, second base and third base.
While the Rangers have won a season-high four straight, the Royals have lost eight in a row — equaling their season-high — and 14 of 15.
They managed a mere four singles in a 4-1 loss on Tuesday night to the Rangers’ Cole Hamels and relievers Jake Diekman and Keone Kela. In June, the Royals are hitting .186 and averaging 2.2 runs per game. They have scored 36 runs in 17 June games. They went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday and are batting .196 with RISP this month.
Left-hander Yohander Mendez was scheduled to start Wednesday for the Rangers but instead he was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock for violating team rules. The incident occurred away from Kauffman Stadium and after the Monday night game.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the violation did not involve the police, was criminal or involve Major League Baseball.
The Rangers recalled right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx from Triple-A Round Rock and he will make the start Wednesday. He had a 2-3 record with a 4.47 ERA in 11 starts in the Pacific Coast League. He made two starts earlier this season for Texas, going 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA.
Bibens-Dirkx spent 12 seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut last season. He went 5-2 with a 4.67 ERA in 24 games, including six starts, for the Rangers as a rookie in 2017.
The Royals will counter with right-hander Jakob Junis, who is 5-7 with a 4.43 ERA. He has dropped his past four decisions. He yielded six runs, matching his career high, over 5 1/3 innings in his last start, a loss to the Houston Astros.
Junis is 3-5 with a 4.84 ERA in eight home starts this season. He has allowed 18 home runs, 13 of them at Kauffman Stadium.
This will be Junis’ first appearance against the Rangers.
The Rangers have won 16 of their last 19 games against the Royals, dating to July 23, 2016, including winning four of six this season.
Shin-Soo Choo singled in the sixth inning Tuesday night and has reached base in 33 consecutive games. The Rangers outfielder is hitting .328 during the streak, which is the second longest in the majors this year.