ST. PETERSBURG — It didn’t take long once SS Yunel Escobar arrived in Tampa Bay before last season to realize he had found a home, and that’s why he told executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman that he would like to remain a Ray past the end of his contract.
Escobar asked and he received.
The Rays on Saturday announced a two-year extension with a club option for a third year that guarantees Escobar $13 million. The Rays picked up Escobar’s $5 million option for 2015 and will pay him $7 million in 2016. They hold a $7 million option in 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
“I think it’s one of the best things to ever happen in my career. I came here last year, came into a winning organization, the treatment was right,” Escobar said through an interpreter.
Escobar, who joined the Rays in December 2012 after a trade with the Marlins, batted .256 in 2013 and led all shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage. According to Stats LLC., his .853 zone rating over the past two seasons is tops among shortstops.
The Rays knew Escobar could play Gold Glove-caliber defense. They didn’t know how much of an influence he would have on the team in the clubhouse.
“He’s a guy who fits us really well in a lot of different ways,” Friedman said. “Looking back to when we acquired him to today, I think a lot of people would be surprised that his energy and what he proves on a daily basis is really a driver for a lot of our guys. Our guys love the enthusiasm and energy he brings. He’s a guy who fit in really well from Day One.”
“He’s an energy source,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He loves to play.”
Escobar said playing in the same infield as 1B James Loney, 2B Ben Zobrist and 3B Evan Longoria — each Gold Glove finalists last season — was a big reason why he wanted to remain a Ray. It was a big reason why the Rays wanted him around for a few more years, as well.
“Obviously, a big driver for us,” Friedman said. “To be able to keep Longo, Escy, Zo and Loney together was really important to us. When we got to the end of last year and took a critical look back at the 2013 season, the infield was something that was really a strength in a lot of different facets, and something that we wanted to try and keep together. Obviously, bringing Loney back and now doing this with Escobar, it’s something that at least as far as we can see out we have this group together.”
Cobb looks to rebound
Maddon said RHP Alex Cobb and C Ryan Hanigan were not in synch Tuesday when Cobb made his season debut against the Blue Jays, and that was one reason why he was able to go only five innings.
Cobb said the blame is all on him and his lack of command of all his pitches.
“There isn’t a right or wrong pitch to call in a certain situation when all the pitches are working,” Cobb said.
Cobb returns to the mound today looking to rebound from that loss, during which he allowed a three-run homer in the first inning and four runs through his five innings.
“I thought it was awful,” Cobb said. “There’s nothing good that came out of that start for me other than the fact that I was able to compete to a certain degree in those middle innings. But, if you give up three in the first, all I wanted to do after that was go into the sixth and eat up some innings, and I wasn’t able to do that either, so in my eyes it was pretty terrible.”
RF Wil Myers received his BBWAA 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award before Saturday’s game. ... David DeJesus (bruised right foot) was the DH on Saturday because Maddon wanted to wait one more day before putting him back in left field. ... Maddon won his second replay review in the second inning when an infield hit for Rangers C Robinson Chirinos was overturned. ... Escobar’s third-inning home run was the Rays’ first solo shot of the year.