Alcides Escobar rose from his seat on a bucket behind home plate and trotted toward his position at shortstop. As his teammates took batting practice, he bent to scoop grounders swatted at him by Royals instructor Jason Kendall. Instead of throwing, Escobar deposited the balls in a neat pile near his feet.
The Royals opted for a more cautious tack with Escobar, who is recovering from a cortisone shot designed to eradicate inflammation from his right shoulder. The team intended to play him in a big-league game on Wednesday, but now will put him through a battery of tests and minor-league games before he can rejoin his teammates on Saturday.
“I’m at peace with where we’re at right now,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “But it’s never a good thing when your everyday shortstop’s not in the lineup.”
The timing is disheartening for the club — and so are the extenuating circumstances. A few hours after manager Ned Yost revealed Escobar’s adjusted timetable, the team scratched second baseman Omar Infante from Monday’s game due to soreness in his right elbow. Infante had recently returned from his own bout of shoulder inflammation.
A team spokesman indicated Infante was considered “day to day.” The Royals have Tuesday off. Infante was not available in the clubhouse while reporters were present before the game.
The dueling middle-infield injuries call into question the organization’s prescribed roster construction. The team had appeared likely to break camp without a backup middle infielder. Yost admitted before the game he planned to carry Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell as extra outfielders. Danny Valencia is considered the probable occupant of the final roster spot.
The team optioned utility infielder Christian Colon to Class AAA Omaha last week. But both Pedro Ciriaco and Jason Donald remain in camp. Yost has heaped praise on both. Ciriaco is out of options and could be claimed on waivers if he does not make the club. Donald is not on the 40-man roster.
Moore said he had not discussed with Yost the possibility of carrying 11 pitchers rather than the customary 12. That possibility could be re-opened, depending on the severity of Infante’s condition. Moore painted the roster as a fluid group that could be altered during the final weeks of camp.
“It’s not a push-button club,” Moore said. “Dayton Moore hasn’t created the best roster in the history of the game. There’s going to be things that we have to do to massage the roster throughout the year.”
Moore’s concern for Escobar is muted. Escobar has not undergone an MRI, but Moore indicated “structurally, he’s fine,” based on the recommendations of trainer Nick Kenney and team physician Vincent Key. Escobar took six at-bats in a minor-league game on Monday and later threw up to 105 feet “with good carry,” Yost said. Escobar reported no discomfort after his workout.
“Last week, I felt it every throw,” Escobar said. “Right now, the pain is gone.”
Still, the team wanted to be careful with him. Kenney recommended Escobar complete a battery of throwing drills on Wednesday. After that, he could appear in minor-league games on Thursday and Friday. If he experienced a setback in those games, Yost explained, the team could still back-date a stint on the disabled list and have Escobar ready for Opening Day.
Moore repeatedly downplayed the severity of Escobar’s condition. He skipped winter ball this offseason and missed several days early in camp on paternity leave. Moore attributed the injury to Escobar’s jumpy schedule. “It’s been an interrupted spring for him,” Moore said.
Last week, Yost estimated Escobar required 10 days of live action to prepare for the year. Saturday is nine days away from Opening Day in Detroit. The Royals say that is enough.
“Is he behind? Yes,” Moore said. “But he’s very athletic. It’s not going to take him long to get into good shape.”