04/26/2013 8:10 PM ET
Escobar showing major value off bench
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Utility infielder Eduardo Escobar is off to a blistering start offensively so far this season, but has started just five of Minnesota's first 19 games.
Escobar, who was acquired in the trade that sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox before last year's Trade Deadline, is hitting .480 (12-for-25) with a homer, a triple and a double in 13 games.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire jokingly took credit for Escobar's impressive start, as he said he's played him at the right times.
"I think I have him hitting .400 right now so I'm doing a good job," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "In spot duty, he's hitting .450 or something like that, so I'm managing the heck out of him."
But Gardenhire added that Escobar will get more playing time moving forward, but it's been tough to fit him in because he likes the middle infield combination of Pedro Florimon at shortstop and Brian Dozier at second base.
"I like him on the bench, but I also like him when he's out there playing too," Gardenhire said. "When he's out there, he produces. But we're going to use everybody. We've just had a lot of rainouts and snowouts and everything. But he's very valuable off the bench because he can play multiple positions."
Hicks starting to show signs of improvement
MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite a slow start to the season that has him hitting just .086 entering Friday, rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks is starting to show signs that he's ready to turn it around.
Hicks has reached safely in his last seven games and has a .458 on-base percentage over that span thanks to eight walks. He saw his streak of seven straight games with a walk end on Thursday against the Rangers, but did go 1-for-3 with a single.
Hicks, who was moved down from his leadoff spot on April 15, has shown plenty of patience so far this season, as his 11 walks lead all rookies, but he has just five hits.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, though, said those hits will start to come if he continues to work himself into hitters' counts.
"There's no doubt his confidence [is better]," Gardenhire said. "You would see him in the dugout when he was really scuffling, and mentally you could see him fighting it. But he's to the point where I'm not worried about him anymore. He's walking and going deep in counts. He still has a lot to learn and about situational baseball, but we're trying not to throw everything at him at once."
Twins bullpen continues to pick up starters
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins starters have struggled so far this year with a 5.15 ERA, but the bullpen has been able to pick them up with a 2.37 ERA.
That 2.37 ERA ranks as the sixth-best mark in the Majors, as relievers Glen Perkins, Josh Roenicke, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly and Anthony Swarzak all have ERAs under 3.00.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire isn't surprised, however, as he felt the bullpen would be a strong suit heading into the season.
"Our bullpen has been great," Gardenhire said. "We've mixed and matched. But we feel comfortable with any of them in any situation right now getting up to the eighth and ninth inning. We're able to call on just about any of them to get big outs."