Escobar, Infante confident despite lack of game activity
Double-play combo has yet to play in Cactus League game together
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- On Friday, Alcides Escobar was back at shortstop for the first time in 12 days. And it was just his fourth time in the Royals' lineup in 22 Cactus League games.
"I'm feeling good. I want to play, I want to play bad," Escobar said.
However, missing from Friday's lineup against the Reds was Escobar's new second-base partner, Omar Infante. The two middle infielders have not yet played together in a Spring Training game, and there are only seven left before Opening Day.
Time is short, and Infante, out with a sore right elbow, isn't sure when he'll be ready to play.
"I'm going to start throwing tomorrow. Today, I'll take swings," Infante said. "And we'll see. But I'm feeling a lot better."
Infante has played just eight games, including two as the designated hitter. Earlier, Escobar missed time to be with his wife when she gave birth in Miami. When he returned, Infante was out with a sore throwing shoulder. When Infante was ready, Escobar had a sore shoulder. Now, it's Infante's elbow bone spur acting up.
So they haven't been in a game together yet.
"I don't see it as a detriment," manager Ned Yost said. "They've been taking ground balls every day together. They're both very athletic, up-the-middle defenders. They both have natural timing and a natural bond, being from Venezuela."
Not that Yost is brushing off the importance of getting the timing down on double plays and all the other nuances of covering that crucial bit of baseball real estate.
"It's not overrated," Yost said. "I saw where Ian Kinsler said it takes a month to develop a relationship with a shortstop. And I was like, OK, maybe it does take certain people a month but, you watch these two take grounders together and they don't have any problems."
Infante and Escobar, who are locker neighbors in the clubhouse, feel it won't take long for them to mesh.
"We have to be ready for the season and we've practiced a lot together on the double play and with our communication," Infante said. "I don't think we'll have to do too much. We've worked a lot during batting practice."
Of course, fielding during batting practice and during an actual game are two different matters.
"We're working together in practice, but it's different in the game," Escobar said, "it's faster, but I understand Omar perfectly."
Adjusting to a new second baseman should pose no challenge for Escobar, who's been doing that ever since he arrived from the Brewers prior to the 2011 season.
"From 2011 until now, I've played with like 15 different second basemen," Escobar said. "For me, that's not any problem because I've played with everybody here. And now with Omar, one of the best second basemen in the game, we're going to play well together."
Just last year, Escobar was teamed with Chris Getz, Elliot Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Giavotella and even one game with Jamey Carroll. Only Giavotella remains with the team.
Of course, turning double plays is old stuff to this new pairing. Infante, as a second baseman, has been involved in 476 DPs and Escobar, as a shortstop, has 375 to his credit.
"During BP, we take ground balls and I flip to him, he flips to me and we've been working together," Escobar said.
Certainly there's a lot involved in combining the talents of two middle infielders but, as Yost said rather drolly, it's not likely to take a month for this Kansas City pair.
"It's just timing and their actions and how they do the shovel pass, how they do the flip-turn," Yost said. "Either one of those guys is so athletic, I don't think it really matters. I think they're going to be able to adjust anyway. At least in my mind, I don't see it as a big deal."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.