Eddie Guardado was a short, husky lefthander and first received a shot with the Twins as a starter. He made his 25th and last career start on June 12, 1995.
Guardado made 604 relief appearances for the Twins between then and the end of 2003. He led the American League with 83 appearances in 1996, and received the label “Everyday Eddie.”
Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez were traded by the White Sox to the Twins for pitcher Francisco Liriano on July 28, 2012. Escobar was a switch hitter and the Twins advertised him as having a future as a utility infielder.
Five years later, the Twins have returned to the postseason, and one of the improbable reasons for this is Escobar surfacing as a short, husky regular at third base, a genuine second coming of “Everyday Eddie.”
Miguel Sano fouled a ball off his left shin on Aug. 18 and hobbled through a game the next day. At that point, the Twins had played 121 games, and Escobar had started 73, including 37 at third base.
Sano was diagnosed with a stress reaction and did not return to the active list until Friday night at Target Field. It took a 37-game push without Sano from Aug. 20 to Wednesday night for the Twins to gain the American League’s second wild card.
Escobar started all 37 — 35 at third base and two as the designated hitter. He had nine home runs and 20 RBI in that time. He added a home run and three RBI Friday, putting his season totals to 21 and 73.
“Esco and what he’s done, being a part-time player and then getting inserted on an everyday basis … giving us production and defense,” manager Paul Molitor said. “You can make a lot of cases for your most valuable guy, but for him stepping up the way he has the last part of the season has been huge for us.”
There it is, straight from the manager: Everyday Eddie II, two decades later.
“I like that,” Escobar said, meaning being mentioned in the same company as Guardado, the original Everyday and now the Twins bullpen coach, and also being in the lineup for six weeks at the same position.
Escobar said this is the best part of playing every day: “No matter what happens today, you know you will be out there the next day with a chance to do even better.
“It has been a fun year — because of what we’ve done as a team, and for me, because it has been a healthy year.”
Escobar was on the disabled list twice in 2016. The 88 starts he made were considerably fewer than he had the previous two seasons. The Twins also brought in another veteran infielder, Ehire Adrianza, shortly before 2017 spring training.
The shortstop job was being handed to Jorge Polanco. Danny Santana still was around and Adrianza was added to the mix. One could never accuse Escobar of grumpiness, but he had a right to wonder about his standing with the new front office.
It all worked out. Adrianza had an early-season injury, Santana was sent to Atlanta in a minor trade in early May, and Escobar remained Option A as a backup. Then, Sano fouled a baseball off his shin, was slow to recover, and Escobar went from frequent duty to lineup lifesaver.
That’s a journey from his status in spring training, and a much longer one from when the White Sox signed him as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela in January 2006. He hit one home run in his first three pro seasons. He was “so skinny, maybe 150,” and also learning to hit lefty to become a switch hitter.
“All my coaches criticized me for being small and still swinging so hard,” Escobar said.
That was a decade ago. He’s still swinging hard, but there’s now thickness on that 5-9 (at most) frame; 189 pounds at the moment. He goes to a home in Miami and works with a trainer for a couple of months, before returning home to Venezuela for December and January.
The homeland has been on his mind. On Sunday, the foundation that he started several years ago fed 2,000 people in his hometown. And then he learned Thursday of the death of his grandfather, Marquiade, at age 79 from a heart attack.
Escobar keeps the troubles to himself and remains an irrepressible presence with the Twins.
“I’m happy for him … he’s worked hard every day to be what he is,” Sano said Friday. “He’s showing other teams he can play third base. He might not just be a utility guy. He could be an everyday player.”
Already is at the end of 2017. He’s Everyday Eddie II.