His left knee was swollen and sore, but Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar still started at shortstop on Sunday. He absorbed the cleats of Orioles infielder Jonathan Schoop on a close play at second base on Saturday night, but Escobar was able to play through the discomfort.
“It’s good,” he said Sunday morning. “I’m playing.”
The team had little other option. They lack a backup middle infielder on the roster. If Escobar left Saturday’s game, manager Ned Yost floated the idea of utilizing either first baseman Eric Hosmer or reliever Michael Mariot in left field, with Alex Gordon shifting to third base.
Escobar is one of the game’s most durable players. He played 159 games in 2013. This season, he has also been one of the Royals’ best hitters. He entered Sunday’s game leading the team with a .778 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Escobar has provided his production from the bottom of the batting order. With his offense floundering, Yost has not considered moving Escobar up in the lineup.
“You’ve got to have some offense at the bottom of the order, too,” Yost said. “I like where he’s at. I like his speed at the bottom of the order. I like the fact that we’ve got a guy down there swinging the bat well, that can get on base for the guys at the top of the order.”
Yost found the line of questioning humorous. During the first series of the season, he delivered a passionate defense of Escobar when asked about potentially pinch-hitting for him in late-game situations. Escobar was one of the worst hitters in baseball in 2013.
“He’s been productive,” Yost said. “Three weeks ago, you guys were asking why I’m not pinch-hitting for him. So what’s it going to be. Now you want to know when I’m going to move him up. See? This is all the crap that I’ve got to put up with every day.”
He was smiling when he spoke. But his message was clear. He has no interest in upsetting Escobar’s current state.
“I’m as pleased as I’ve ever been with him,” Yost said.
With an off day on Monday, the Royals could reconfigure their rotation, Yost said. Though Yost declined to speak in specifics, Bruce Chen could be skipped or pushed back.
Yost said he wanted to try to keep his pitchers on a five-day schedule.
Chen is slated to start against Toronto on Thursday. Jeremy Guthrie would be coming off four days’ rest, and could start in Chen’s place that day.No Hosmer in outfield
The Royals visit San Diego next week for a three-game interleague series. Yost does not expect to start Hosmer in the outfield. If Billy Butler is swinging well, he could start at first base against a left-handed starter.