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Escobar, Adrianza must step up to fill SS void

Twins confident pair can hold down shortstop while Polanco serves suspension
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco was originally on the travel list for Monday's 11-8 loss to the Pirates, but on Sunday he met with chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and manager Paul Molitor to disclose that he was dropping his appeal and would be suspended 80 games for the use of a performance-enhancing drug.

The Twins had to reshuffle their plans, starting Ehire Adrianza at shortstop against Pittsburgh, and will have to do the same in the first half of this season, as the club is expected to stick with in-house options to replace Polanco, who isn't eligible to return until June 30. Eduardo Escobar is expected to be the club's regular shortstop with Adrianza serving as his backup. Whoever starts at shortstop on Opening Day will be Minnesota's 13th different starting shortstop over the last 14 years.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco was originally on the travel list for Monday's 11-8 loss to the Pirates, but on Sunday he met with chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and manager Paul Molitor to disclose that he was dropping his appeal and would be suspended 80 games for the use of a performance-enhancing drug.

The Twins had to reshuffle their plans, starting Ehire Adrianza at shortstop against Pittsburgh, and will have to do the same in the first half of this season, as the club is expected to stick with in-house options to replace Polanco, who isn't eligible to return until June 30. Eduardo Escobar is expected to be the club's regular shortstop with Adrianza serving as his backup. Whoever starts at shortstop on Opening Day will be Minnesota's 13th different starting shortstop over the last 14 years.

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"It's an area we felt we had depth," Falvey said. "With Escobar stepping up last year for [Miguel Sano], we're going to ask him to step up and be a big part of this, which I think he's worn that jersey and been fine with that before. Adrianza is somebody we really liked last year, and we feel he can progress and grow. They're the two guys on the roster, and we feel we're in a great spot to step up for us. Beyond that, there's some depth options for us."

Polanco suspended 80 games for PEDs

Escobar, 29, is coming off a solid year that saw him hit .254/.309/.449 with 21 homers and 16 doubles in 129 games while serving as the regular third baseman down the stretch with Sano out with a shin injury. But he's not considered a strong defender at short, as he lacks the range of Polanco or Adrianza. He started Monday's game against Pittsburgh at third, going 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Video: MIN@PIT: Escobar knocks an RBI single to right

Adrianza, 28, is regarded as a plus-defender and is coming off his best season offensively, hitting .265/.324/.383 with two homers, nine doubles and eight stolen bases in 70 games last year.

Non-roster infielder Erick Aybar also could make the team as a backup infielder, as he has extensive experience at shortstop in his 12-year career. But Falvey cautioned that the Twins haven't decided how they'll use Polanco's roster spot just yet. Aybar has until Friday to opt out of his Minor League deal and Falvey said he hasn't talked to Aybar about whether he'd be willing to play at Triple-A Rochester.

"He's a pro, he's experienced," Falvey said. "The only thing I'd say, generally about our roster, is that not everybody has an Escobar and an Adrianza already on their roster. We could use Jorge's spot on our 25-man for something else. We're not looking for one position-type. We have flexibility."

Teammates stand behind Polanco

Shortstop prospect Nick Gordon was reassigned to Minor League camp on Sunday, but also could figure into the shortstop mix depending on how he fares at Triple-A Rochester. Gordon, ranked as the club's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had an impressive spring, hitting .409 with a double and two triples in 13 games.

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"Nick had a great camp," Falvey said. "We just had his meeting to send him down to the Minor Leagues. Last year, he said he was kind of eyes-wide-open at his first camp, but this year he was much more confident and I think we saw that on the field, his at-bats were so good. He has the ability to bounce around but he's played a lot of shortstop."

Camp battles
Rule 5 right-hander Tyler Kinley, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, was stretched out to two-plus innings and 47 pitches against the Pirates, throwing two scoreless frames before giving up a solo homer and an RBI double in the fifth. Kinley, whose fastball touches 99 mph, has a 3.60 ERA this spring. Lefty Gabriel Moya got out of Kinley's jam in the fifth to continue his solid spring.

Injury updates
Right-hander Ervin Santana has yet to start his throwing program after having his cast removed from his right hand on March 5, as Falvey said, Santana needs to regain his range of motion in his hand. Santana underwent surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right middle finger in early February, but his timetable remains the same, as he's expected to return in late April or early May.

• Left fielder Eddie Rosario continues to make progress with his right triceps injury, and served as the designated hitter against the Pirates. He went 1-for-4. Rosario singled, stole second and scored on a hit from Byron Buxton in the first inning. He played left field in a Minor League game on Sunday and the next step is to play left in a Grapefruit League game, which could happen as soon as Wednesday.

Video: MIN@PIT: Buxton loops RBI single to plate Rosario

Up next
After an off-day on Tuesday, right-hander Jose Berrios will start on Wednesday against the Pirates at Hammond Stadium at 5:05 p.m. CT. Berrios has been solid this spring, posting a 1.64 ERA with eight strikeouts and two walks in 11 innings. Watch the game live on MLB Network and MLB.TV.

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

Minnesota Twins, Ehire Adrianza, Eduardo Escobar