The Milwaukee Brewers’ hunt for pitching took an interesting turn yesterday when the team signed veteran free-agent pitcher Kelvim Escobar.
Escobar took it upon himself to tweet about his new contract from his personal account.
Although Escobar, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has pitched in exactly one major league game since 2007 because of injuries, the Brewers believe he offers enough potential to give him a chance at a comeback.
Escobar has pitched effectively as both a starter and reliever in the past, but at this stage of his career is probably ill-suited for a big-innings role.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt quoted Milwaukee assistant general manager Gord Ash as saying Escobar is auditioning for a spot in their bullpen. “He'll get plenty of opportunity in the bullpen and we'll see what he can do. He has done both (starting and relieving) and done them well but I always thought he was dominant out of the bullpen.”
His best season came in 2007, when he posted an 18-7 record with a 3.40 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 30 starts with the Angels.
Escobar suffered a shoulder injury prior to the 2008 season, causing him to miss the entire year. After rehabbing, he made several starts in the minors in 2009 before making a five-inning start for the Angels against the Detroit Tigers in June. Unfortunately, he re-injured his shoulder in that game and hasn't pitched in the majors since.
McCalvy wrote that the Brewers were interested in Escobar as long ago as before the 2010 season. However, he signed with the New York Mets but was never able to pitch in any games for them because of his injuries.
Playing in the Venezuelan Winter League this winter, Escobar showed he could still pitch and became interested in making a comeback. In 11 innings, he had a 1.64 ERA and received favorable reports from Milwaukee scouts, according to Haudricourt.
McCalvy wrote that Manny Batista, the Brewers’ director of Latin American scouting, reported that Escobar was hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and generally looked good on the mound.
Despite his prior success as a starter, Escobar is no stranger to the bullpen, as he had 38 saves for the Blue Jays in 2002.
The deal is a no-brainer for Milwaukee. If Escobar has anything left, the team will have another interesting arm to slide into their bullpen. If he doesn't, they can part ways without having lost anything.
Everyone loves a comeback story, and the Brewers will undoubtedly be pleased if their gamble with Escobar pays off. But nobody will be happier than Escobar if he is able to successfully resume his pitching career after so much time away.
Statistics via BaseballReference