ST. PETERSBURG -- Know what tickles Alcides Escobar's funny bone? A dribbler off his bat that he beats out for a hit.
"When I get an infield hit, I'm laughing, because I enjoy my infield hits," Escobar said.
Well, the shortstop has had a lot of enjoyment this season, because his 31 infield hits, as of Sunday, were the second most in the Major Leagues. The Yankees' Derek Jeter had 32.
Last Saturday, Escobar became the first Major Leaguer to have four infield hits in a game since Roberto Alomar did so on Aug. 20, 2003, for the White Sox.
Infield hits are especially gratifying for Escobar after some of his line drives have been picked off by a shortstop or second baseman -- and he has hit a lot of line drives this season. He went into the series opener against the Rays with a .308 average and an eight-game hitting streak, during which he is 14-for-33. Last year he finished with a .254 average.
"I feel much better this year than I was last year," he said, "because I've got more patience at home plate and I'm trying to see more pitches. I want to hit with the count 3-1 or 3-2, although sometimes I swing at the first pitch when I feel like it's going to be a fastball."
Manager Ned Yost stuck with Escobar last season, even when he struggled early, and he sees a much improved hitter this year.
"In every way," Yost said. "He's more patient at the plate, he's using his whole tool set in terms of bunting, his speed, his ability to hit the ball to right field, which he's really improved on. Earlier in his career, he was predominately a pull guy; now he's got much better plate discipline. He's our best situational hitter, he's our best bunter, one of our best basestealers."
Escobar swiped 24 bases in his first 28 tries this season after stealing 26 in 2011, and he is the first Royals shortstop to have back-to-back seasons with 20 or more since U.L. Washington had 23 in 1982 and 40 in 1983.
Prospect Colon to miss remainder of season
KANSAS CITY -- Top prospect Christian Colon will likely miss the rest of the season after being hit in the face with a foul ball last week while playing for Triple-A Omaha.
Colon, the team's first-round Draft pick in 2010, was injured by his own foul ball last Monday in Tucson. It was just his fifth game for the Storm Chasers after spending most of the season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He was 7-for-17 with a home run and five RBIs for Omaha.
According to Scott Sharp, the Royals' director of Minor League operations, Colon has no vision issues.
Perez returns to site of impressive debut
ST. PETERSBURG -- Catcher Salvador Perez has returned to Tropicana Field, the site of his impressive Major League debut a little more than a year ago, on Aug. 10, 2011.
"I was so excited," Perez said.
So were the Royals after seeing him perform. Perez not only got his first hit, first run and first RBI, he caught five popups -- including a bunt in front of home plate -- picked off two runners and almost nabbed a third.
Perez remembers it all vividly.
"The pop flies, the bunt, the throw-outs -- everything," he said.
More forgettable was the end of the game, as the Rays wiped out a four-run Royals lead with a five-run ninth against relievers Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria. The tying and winning runs scored when Sam Fuld hit a triple and scored when the throw from second baseman Johnny Giavotella hit him as he slid into third and rolled away for a game-ending error.
Escobar says he made an error in Guthrie's gem
ST. PETERSBURG -- Shortstop Alcides Escobar believes that he made a throwing error on the play that ended Jeremy Guthrie's no-hit bid on Sunday in Kansas City.
Escobar was trying to make an easy throw because Paul Konerko, the White Sox big first baseman, is a relatively slow runner. But the throw hit the dirt in front of first base, and Eric Hosmer couldn't scoop it up; it was scored a single.
"I saw that was Paul Konerko running, and I knew the throw was a little difficult for Hosmer to handle. If I made a good throw, it's an easy out," Escobar said. "He's throwing a no-hitter for 6 2/3, and that's no base hit; with a good throw, that's an easy out. If it's another runner, that's fine -- OK, a base hit. But in that situation, I thought it was an error."
Konerko's was the only hit until, with two outs in the eighth, the White Sox got two singles. Guthrie was pulled from the game and the Sox tied the score, but the Royals won, 5-3, with a three-run eighth.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.