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Kelvim and Vigor According to
2003-05-03 15:59
by Mike Carminati

Kelvim and Vigor

According to Lee Sinins' ATM Reports from yesterday:

The BlueJays will move Kelvim Escobar into the rotation. They currently plan on having him serve as a long reliever when Doug Davis is removed from his start from tomorrow and then when Escobar builds up enough arm strength to go into the rotation.

The Toronto Star speculates that Escobar in the rotation "should be a two-month audition before the Jays try to ship him out of Toronto for good."

After 3.50 ERA/19 RSAA and 4.27 ERA/1 RSAA seasons, Escobar is off to a 13.06 ERA/-9 RSAA start in his first 12 games. He has a 4.78 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.72, and 2 RSAA in 272 games (75 starts).

Is "Escobar" Spanish for yo-yo? The man has been shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation more than anyone in recent memory.

Escobar had always been a starter in the minors (1992-97), but when the Blue Jays called him up in the middle of 1997, he became their closer, saving 14 games in 27 appearances. In 1998, he came out of camp as the Blue Jays' number two starting pitcher behind Roger Clemens, but by mid-April he was on the DL. He would only start 10 games that year, wound up in Triple-A, then back in the bullpen (for 12 games but did not record a save), and ended the year back in the rotation. In 1999, he renmained in teh bullpen and won 14 games but had a 5.69 ERA in doing so. His strikeouts dropped and his walks rose (129 K's and 81 BB's in 174 innings). In 2000, hisERA remained above 5.00, his strikeouts and walks remained about the same, and he was moved back to the bullpen (24 starts in 43 appearances). In 2001, he worked almost exclusively in long relief (59 games with only 11 starts and 126 innings) and recorded his lowest ERA (3.50) since his rookie year. In 2002, with Billy Koch traded to the A's, Escobar took over the closer duties and recorded 38 saves. However, his ERA rose to 4.27, which was 5% better than the league average, but unnacceptable for a closer.

The Blue Jays continued to use in as a closer this year, and his ERA has blowh up to 13.07. He has three saves, but has given up more than a run in 4 of his 12 appearances. His worst appearance was April 12 against Minnesota. He entered the game in the top of the ninth with the game tied and allowed 5 runs without recording an out. Of the three men he faced, three hit singles to center, one reached on a fielder's choice (on which the runner also beat the throw), and man was walked. He also threw a wild pitch. Escobar took the loss in that game. He had a two-week stretch after that in which he allowed just one earned run in 6 appearances (5.1 IP) and collected two saves and a win. He also lowered his ERA from 27.00 to 10.00. But in his last two games Escobar has given up 5 earned runs and 9 hits in two innings both in mop-up appearances.

So now Escobar moves back to the rotation. He still could turn his season around. He has the talent: a mid-90s fastball,a 90 MPH cutter, a high-80s splitter, and a nice curve. For that reason, someone will pick him up. He still has lapses in concentration even in short outings and walks a good number of batters when this flairs up.

There are a couple of managers/pitching coaches who could really help him. Tony LaRussa has made a career on resurrecting once-promising arms. Coaches Leo Mazzone of Atlanta and Joe Kerrigan of the Phils have had their fair share as well.

However, it seems Escobar's fate to end up with some team that is still contending at around the All-Star break even though they really don't deserve to be. Look at the Reds last year for example. They collected a fistful of arms and went down in flames. Maybe the Rockies fill that role this year. God help Escobar if he ends up in Coors.

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