Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Maddon reassures Escobar that he won't be traded

BALTIMORE — Sensing SS Yunel Escobar was bothered by speculation about a possible waiver claim trade to Oakland, Rays manager Joe Maddon took the unusual step Monday of assuring the emotional infielder he would not be dealt by today's deadline.

After discussing the situation with executive vice president Andrew Friedman, Maddon summoned Escobar, and bilingual bench coach Dave Martinez, to a closed door meeting in his office.

"I was able to tell him that we're very, very pleased with what he's doing, we can see him continuing to get better with us, to not be worried about anything happening over the next day," Maddon said. "That's what I got from Andrew."

Escobar was relieved at the news, saying, through a translator, he "felt a lot better" about the situation. But Maddon remained concerned about lingering effects of word getting out that Escobar had been claimed. The waiver process is supposed to be confidential, and most moves don't get reported as teams routinely put players on waivers, especially in August.

So even though a deal with the A's — which could relieve the Rays of $13 million owed over 2015-16 (with a 2017 option) — did not seem likely anyway, Maddon wanted to "ameliorate" Escobar's mind by making sure he understood the process.

"I knew he was upset, it was obvious," Maddon said. "Yuni is really an emotional person and you have to understand what we're dealing with right here, and I think part of the reason he likes it here so much is because we do understand him. I was happy to have that conversation with him to make him feel better because it could impact his performance."

Escobar said he is "happy" to be with the Rays: "This is where I want to be.''

Despite Maddon's assurances, the possibility of a deal technically exists until 1 p.m. today; it is believed the Rays had several other players claimed though no deals are likely, either.

PROTESTATION: A ruling from Major League Baseball on the Rays' protest of Saturday's game against the Blue Jays could come today. Senior VP Joe Torre and MLB staff Monday were reviewing reports and other information regarding the Rays' claim that a replay challenge was improperly allowed in the fourth inning.

Maddon, who emailed his detailed narrative of the events, continues to be confident about their chances. If the protest is upheld, the game, which the Rays lost 5-4 in 10 innings, would be replayed from the point of the challenge on.

"I feel good about our presentation, I feel strongly about what we said, I have not wavered or changed at all," Maddon said. "I really believe we are in the right; it's just a matter of waiting for the decision."

LINEUP SHUFFLE: Ben Zobrist made his first start in centerfield since September 2010 due to a series of circumstances: OF Kevin Kiermaier was not available due to a stiff neck; Maddon was committed to giving OF Desmond Jennings a day off and using 3B Evan Longoria as the DH; and Wil Myers was playing the field for the first time since coming off the disabled list. Kiermaier said his neck issue was a result of colliding with Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes while sliding into second Sunday; he did not expect to miss much time.

WIL THRILLED: Myers insisted he felt better at the plate than his 3-for-18, 10-strikeout record showed for his first five games back. But he also admitted that he may not have been ready to return after seven games at Durham following a 10-week absence due to a broken right wrist. "I might have rushed back maybe a couple games early, but right now there's no excuse in struggling," he said. "I told them I was ready to come back, and I really feel like it's only a matter of time before I start swinging the bat well."

REHAB REPORT: C Ryan Hanigan (oblique) could rejoin the Rays as soon as today, Maddon said. He went 3-for-10 in three rehab games for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs over the weekend and did not travel with them to St. Lucie to play Monday. … OF David DeJesus (fractured left hand), who has played four rehab games, likely won't be ready until after the Monday roster expansion.

MINOR MATTER: Triple-A Durham beat Gwinnett 4-2 to clinch its seventh International League division title in the past eight years.

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