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Rays' Escobar reluctant to talk about past

Yunel Escobar takes batting practice Sunday at the Rays spring training facility in Port Charlotte, FL.

FOR WEB ONLY: JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Yunel Escobar takes batting practice Sunday at the Rays spring training facility in Port Charlotte, FL.

PORT CHARLOTTE — The 10 minutes that Rays SS Yunel Escobar spent in manager Joe Maddon's office Sunday made him feel welcomed and loved by his new team. The 8½ minutes he spent answering questions from reporters, with C Jose Molina interpreting, made it clear that there are still lingering issues from his past.

Escobar, according to Molina, "felt really happy" about being acquired by the Rays, after being traded from Toronto to Miami, and that "it was always his wish to play here." Plus, being reunited with former teammates such as Molina and Kelly Johnson made him feel like he's "in the family already."

But Molina deflected a question about how Escobar's controversial stay in Toronto — including the incident with the inappropriate message on his eye black — ended, saying they had already decided Escobar would not talk about his past.

Escobar, 30, eventually did answer, saying he may have made a bad mistake, and was stronger for it, but "it's a new year, a new team."

Asked about a less-than-stellar reputation, Molina answered: "He said, you guys after you see him this year, you're going to have your own opinion on that, and you guys will see what he's talking about about the defense of Yunel Escobar."

ANOTHER BAT: The Rays aren't sure exactly what they're getting in signing Jack Cust to a minor-league deal with a camp invite.

But they'll take a look at the 34-year-old DH who averaged 24 homers with a .247 average and .381 on-base percentage from 2008-10 with Oakland but has spent much of the past two seasons in the minors.

"They said come in and see what you look like, see if it's you from three years ago, or you from the last couple of years," he said. "It's just something where I know what I can do. I know I've still got it.''

WORLD VIEW: RHP Joel Peralta officially announced he would not play in next month's World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.

The decision was a combination of two issues: Peralta was already reconsidering due to concern by the Rays about his workload, then he was sidelined with a stiff neck and unable to throw the first five days of camp.

"That was the big part of it," Peralta said. "If I was practicing and pitching and being ready I might change my mind, talk to (Rays executive VP) Andrew (Friedman) and see if he'd let me go. They were really concerned about it. They really asked me not to go, so they played a big part of this, too. I'm a Rays pitcher. I work for them."

Peralta, who turns 37 next month, said he was disappointed to lose the only chance to represent his country: "It hurts a little bit."

GREAT SCOTT: DH Luke Scott reported confident of more production since he could go through a full offseason of workouts compared to a year ago as he was recovering from shoulder surgery: "I'm good to go. I'm really happy where I'm at."

MISCELLANY: Senior adviser Don Zimmer was greeted warmly in his first appearance at camp. Zimmer, 82, is making only occasional appearances due to health-related issues. … Cust's signing pushed the camp roster to 66, and all worked out Sunday, with Hak-Ju Lee, Escobar and Scott the last reportees. … Today is the annual charity tournament at Bradenton's Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club.

Rays' Escobar reluctant to talk about past 02/17/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 17, 2013 8:42pm]
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