Escobar producing as Royals' No. 2 hitter
Shortstop hit two homers in Saturday's win over the White Sox
KANSAS CITY -- Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is enjoying a breakout season offensively, and seems to be suited for the No. 2 spot in manager Ned Yost's lineup.
Escobar has been hitting in the two-hole since July 1 in Minnesota. In 10 games since entering Sunday, Escobar was hitting .293 with a .370 on-base percentage, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, seven runs scored and seven RBIs. That was highlighted by Saturday's two-homer performance in the Royals' 6-3 win over the White Sox.
"He's done so good, and you look at him and you can really envision him being a No. 2 hitter on a championship club," Yost said. "So we wanted to, not as much get a look at him, but develop him in that spot, let him get used to it so that when the time comes he's going to be totally comfortable there. But he's done a great job. He's doing everything we want him to do in the two-spot."
The role of a No. 2 hitter is to see a lot of pitches, get on base and be able to lay down a bunt. It's a rare player that can do all those things well. Yost said that Escobar has been doing those things all year, and that's what led to the change.
"He was selective down low [in the order], too," Yost said. "That's one of the reasons we decided to move him to the two-hole, because he was seeing a bunch of pitches. He was laying off a lot of sliders away and things that you want him to do. That, coupled with the fact that he was hitting over .300, made it a pretty easy choice."
But what of Saturday's home-run barrage? A No. 2 hitter isn't typically known for his power stroke and Yost said Escobar should be cautious to not get in a home-run mindset.
"We've got to be careful with the home runs. It takes away from what he does really well -- that's stay in the middle, hit the ball the opposite way -- but he does have the ability to hit homers. So it was impressive to see him do that," Yost said. "He's had a great year to this point, offensively, and I'm real pleased with the progress he's made to this point."
Broxton shows penchant for dramatic finishes
KANSAS CITY -- As Royals fans know by now, closer Jonathan Broxton is not known for clean innings. There always seems to be an element of suspense involved, a runner or two -- or three! -- before he escapes.
When he got the save in Saturday night's 6-3 win over the White Sox, he'd converted 22 of 26 save opportunities and this one was something of an oddity -- he did it with a 1-2-3 inning.
"The thing that really impresses me about Broxton is no matter what trouble he gets in, he never panics, he never gets flustered, he keeps making his pitches and finds ways to get out of it," manager Ned Yost said afterward. "But it was nice to see him come in with a three-run lead and get a 1-2-3 inning, that's for sure."
That was only the sixth time in Broxton's 22 saves that he'd done it with a perfect inning. But, aha, there's a method to Broxton's madness if, of course, we can take the big guy seriously.
"The fans don't pay for that, they want excitement," Broxton said with a mischievous grin. "Especially on the road, you get 'em all pumped up, get 'em right there on the edge of their seats. ..."
And then, boom, squelch their hopes.
That's drama. Maybe that's why they call it The Show.
Yost's latest lineup shifts Cain to cleanup
KANSAS CITY -- Playing with a lineup is not the favorite pastime of Royals manager Ned Yost. If he had his druthers, he'd keep it pretty much intact day after day. But, for Sunday's game against the White Sox, he got a bit inventive.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain, in his second start since returning from injury, was inserted into the fourth spot -- his first time as a cleanup hitter in his relatively brief big league career.
"I've never seen myself as a middle-of-the-order type guy, but if that's where I'm at, I'm going to take the same approach and try and just stay as a line-drive hitter and just go from there," Cain said.
Yost also had designated hitter Yuniesky Betancourt in the fifth spot, where's he's been recently, and Billy Butler at first base (Eric Hosmer got the day off), batting third instead of fourth.
"Cain's swinging it well, he's a good fastball hitter, [Chris] Sale's a good fastball pitcher. Yuni can get on a fastball. I had three choices to put there -- Butler, Cain or Betancourt. What difference does it make who you hit three, four, five? So it's not a big deal," Yost said.
"There have been studies done by all these Sabermetricians that say you can pull your lineup out of a hat every day and it's not going to make any difference. ... I've read all that stuff."
Yost hasn't gone that far, of course.
"You just try to put the guys that are your best hitters up top to get the most at-bats," Yost said. "You want to try to create some continuity in offensive sequence so all up and down in your nine, you've got capabilities of scoring runs. So it's important to have guys that swing the bats good, too, at the bottom of the order as well as the top of the order, so you can create sequence no matter where you are in the lineup."
Yost recalled that during his early days as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, that offensive capability was good from spots one through five, but from six on down was a dead zone. That's not the case with the current Royals, in his view.
"Our lineup now, I feel like we've got offensive sequence or capabilities all the way down to nine," Yost said. "We can start a rally anywhere in our lineup and maintain it."
Pina reinstated, sent to Northwest Arkansas
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals made a couple of roster moves within the organization.
On Saturday night, the club reinstated catcher Manny Pina from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. To make room on the 40-man roster for Pina, the Royals moved right-hander Felipe Paulino from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
Pina underwent surgery on his right knee in February, while Paulino had Tommy John surgery earlier this month and will miss the remainder of the season.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.