04/28/2013 2:41 PM ET
Willingham honored following big '12 season
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left fielder Josh Willingham was honored before Sunday's game against the Rangers for winning the Silver Slugger Award last season.
Willingham hit .260 with a career-high 35 homers and 110 RBIs that year, his first with the Twins, en route to winning his first career Silver Slugger Award.
"It's deservedly so," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We thought he should've been an All-Star last year. But he didn't get picked, which was a big disappointment for our organization and him I'm sure. But he had a great year and did everything he was supposed to do when we brought him over here. So it's well-deserved."
Willingham also leads the Twins with four homers this season, including two against the Rangers this series. With his two-run shot Saturday, he passed Jim Thome for the most homers in Target Field history with 25. "I think it's pretty neat," Willingham said.
Escobar returns to lineup following hot start
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was trying to find more playing time for utility infielder Eduardo Escobar, who has been the club's hottest hitter so far this season in a backup role.
Escobar was hitting .483 (14-for-29) entering Sunday's game against the Rangers, when he started at shortstop to mark the first time this season he started on back-to-back days.
Escobar, who was acquired along with Pedro Hernandez in the trade that sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox before last year's Trade Deadline, went 2-for-4 while playing third base Saturday.
"He's playing high school baseball," Gardenhire joked. "He's doing great. That's why I ran him back out there again today to find another spot for him. He's swinging it really good. You never know how long you're going to stay on that surfboard before someone knocks you off. So you just ride it and go from there."
Gardenhire added he was been pleasantly surprised by Escobar's power, as Escobar had a homer, a triple and a double entering Sunday's game, and he flied out to the warning track in center field Saturday.
"He's got some pop," Gardenhire said. "It's surprising. And he has a cannon for an arm. He's a nice player. There's a reason why we got him in that trade, and he's showing us why."
Gardenhire focused on Twins, but eyeing prospects
MINNEAPOLIS -- While Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's primary focus is on the big league club, he said he also pays close attention to how the organization's Minor Leaguers are faring.
Gardenhire receives a daily report from each of the club's Minor League affiliates and says he also tries to watch as much video as he can. He also speaks to the Minor League managers about specific players, especially Triple-A Rochester skipper Gene Glynn, with whom Gardenhire speaks on the phone about once a week.
"I read reports, stats and a few articles, and if I want to I can watch some video," Gardenhire said. "But I have enough to do right now watching the Major League guys. But I do always try to catch a little bit of a game, especially our Triple-A team."
Gardenhire subscribes to MiLB.tv so that he can watch Rochester and said he watched part of right-hander Kyle Gibson's start Saturday and came away impressed. Gibson, ranked as the No. 49 overall prospect according to MLB.com, tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings against Buffalo to improve to 1-3 with a 3.33 ERA in five starts.
"I watch them," Gardenhire said. "They usually play at 6 o'clock, so I'll watch them before a 7 o'clock game here."