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Polanco addresses team regarding suspension

Escobar returns to favorite position, takes over at shortstop
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco, who was suspended 80 games on Sunday for the use of a performance-enhancing substance, addressed his teammates before Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Pirates, speaking to the entire club for the first time since the suspension was announced.

Manager Paul Molitor and Twins players wouldn't go into specifics about what Polanco said, but Polanco was apologetic for his actions, and his teammates appreciated that he stood in the middle of the clubhouse and owned up to his actions.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco, who was suspended 80 games on Sunday for the use of a performance-enhancing substance, addressed his teammates before Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Pirates, speaking to the entire club for the first time since the suspension was announced.

Manager Paul Molitor and Twins players wouldn't go into specifics about what Polanco said, but Polanco was apologetic for his actions, and his teammates appreciated that he stood in the middle of the clubhouse and owned up to his actions.

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"We are a team," said Twins right-hander Jose Berrios. "I'm here for him. I don't care what people say. He's my brother, and we're all together."

Teammates stand behind Polanco

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Polanco is barred from playing in Grapefruit League games, but Molitor said Polanco could play in Minor Leagues games as soon as Thursday. Polanco will remain in Fort Myers to train until he's eligible for a rehab assignment in June to get ready for his reinstatement, which will come on June 30, at the earliest.

With Polanco out, Eduardo Escobar will get the majority of playing time at short this spring and early this season, with Ehire Adrianza as his backup. Molitor said he's confident in Escobar because of his track record and believes he's a capable shortstop defensively even if he lacks the range of Polanco or Adrianza.

"We've seen him play there a lot over the years," Molitor said. "He's a steady defender, he's an accurate thrower. My confidence is solid. Him and Jorge are different in how they move and they play."

Molitor added that the way Escobar played at third base down the stretch in 2017 in the absence of Miguel Sano also gives him more confidence that Escobar can handle the situation. Escobar, 29, hit .253/.309/.449 with a career-high 21 homers in 499 plate appearances, also a career high.

Video: MIN@BOS: Escobar extends lead with a two-run smash

"I think it's helpful when something like this occurs that you can plug someone who is accustomed to playing significant roles on your team in recent go-rounds," Molitor said. "He not just filled in for Miggy, he was put into big spots in the lineup and was productive. He's one of those guys who always says, 'I'm ready when you need me,' and right now I need him."

Escobar is set to start on Opening Day for the second time in his seven-year career, as he opened the 2016 season as the everyday shortstop, only to lose the job to Eduardo Nunez and later Polanco that season. But Escobar is confident he can put up similar numbers to last year and is happy to be playing his favorite position again (he made only 12 starts at short last year).

"First, I feel bad for my buddy, Polanco. It's a hard situation for him, but it's my opportunity again, like last year at third base with Sano hurt," Escobar said. " I love playing every day. I'm really happy to be in the opening lineup. Every player works hard for it."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Jorge Polanco