Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Maddon: Escobar situation resolved

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon typically demands that his players hustle and has been known to take action in egregious cases, most famously in August 2008 when he pulled B.J. Upton off the field and benched him.

SS Yunel Escobar's failure to run hard on a hit in Sunday's game did not warrant such extreme action — in part because Maddon said he didn't see it first hand — and is now considered a dead issue, with Maddon saying that after talking with Escobar he is confident there will be no further problems.

"I'd be surprised," Maddon said. "I'm just anticipating good right now. … I had a good conversation with him" Monday.

Escobar was said to not be feeling well enough after Sunday's game to discuss the play with a reporter, and Monday, via bench coach Dave Martinez, he declined again. (He did, however, homer in his first at-bat.)

Escobar came to the Rays last season with somewhat of a tarnished reputation but has been of little trouble, and Maddon has often defended him when questioned. Plus, Escobar was signed to a contract extension this season.

Maddon pointed out other good hustle plays by Escobar later in Sunday's game and said he "did really well" overall. "I don't want to have one incident like that fester at all with him or with anybody else," Maddon said. "So for me it's a moot point. It's a dead issue. We're moving it along."

Maddon said there were two primary differences between the Escobar and Upton situations, starting with Maddon not noticing Escobar running slowly out of the box — thus getting only to second rather than third at a time when the Rays trailed by one — and a lack of prior infractions.

"I didn't see it; I'm watching the play in left-centerfield," he said. "The times it happened with B.J. they were like ground balls and you're just looking over there. And furthermore with B.J., I had spoken to him in advance of those moments, too."

Asked if he had now had that talk with Escobar, Maddon said, "We've conversed with him in English and Spanish."

And he said in no way is he softening his stance about a lack of hustle.

"I don't like that, you're absolutely right," Maddon said. "We don't like that. We don't want that here. But I didn't see it, and that matters."

HELLICKSON DELAYED? RHP Jeremy Hellickson makes the third of three scheduled rehab starts tonight for Triple-A Durham, but the Rays may have him pitch at least one more game in the minors before reinstating him.

Hellickson, completing his recovery from Jan. 29 arthroscopic right elbow surgery, lasted only 21/3 innings in his June 12 outing while throwing 55 pitches, though Maddon insisted it was more important that he felt good.

Adding another rehab start would allow Hellickson more time to build arm strength and stamina. It also would put him on track to rejoin the Rays on June 27, when they have a day-night doubleheader in Baltimore, though RHP Alex Colome, who is 3-0, 0.67 for Durhan, could be an option.

CLOSING TIME: Though LHP Jake McGee got the save Sunday, Maddon said they are still operating on a "by-committee" basis dictated as much by the opponents' batting order. Sunday, for example, Maddon said he would have used McGee in the eighth had starter LHP David Price run into trouble then figured out the ninth. Monday, he had deposed closer Grant Balfour start the eight but then needed McGee to finish it and used RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo in the ninth. Also, Maddon said he sees "no need" at this point to settle on any one closer.

MORE MEDICAL: OF Brandon Guyer (left thumb fracture) went 0-for-4 with a walk as the DH for Durham in his third rehab appearance. Maddon said they want Guyer, out since late May, to get enough at-bats until he feels "sharp and good" since he won't get regular playing time when he returns.

MISCELLANY: The Rays had lost their first five to the O's. … Oviedo notched his first save since Sept. 17, 2011, for the Marlins, when he was known as Leo Nunez. … A moment of silence was observed pregame for Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died Monday.

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