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Tampa Bay Rays to scout out former closer Kelvim Escobar in Venezuela

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have their eye on another established reliever, Kelvim Escobar, and will take a look Friday when he pitches in Venezuela.

Escobar, 33, has pitched only one game in the big leagues the past two years because of shoulder problems but is considered healthy as he makes his winter ball debut Friday for Lara.

Escobar said the Rays and Mets (who have made a minor-league offer) are most interested, and in comments to El Nacional freelancer Efrain Zavarce, relayed by ESPN's Jorge Arangure, he spoke favorably of both situations.

Rays: "Tampa would be a good place. They have a need for relief pitching. Last year they lost several games because of the bullpen. Now with Rafael Soriano and possibly me, Tampa could be better." Plus, he has a prior relationship from the Angels with Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is trying to recruit him.

Mets: "I love New York, and that's why I'd love to pitch for the Mets. Plus, they have Johan (Santana), Francisco (Rodriguez), and now Henry Blanco."

Escobar saved 38 games for the Jays in 2002 and was primarily a starter from 2004 to 2007 for the Angels. He said he plans to pitch in relief to preserve his shoulder.

Meanwhile, the Rays announced eight minor-league signings with spring training invites who have ties to the organization.

Three played for the Rays last season: first baseman Chris Richard and right-handed relievers Jeff Bennett and Winston Abreu. Four played in the minors: right-hander Joe Bateman and left-handers Jason Cromer and Carlos Hernandez at Triple-A Durham and right-hander Richard de los Santos at Class A after recovering from shoulder surgery. Left-hander R.J. Swindle was claimed on waivers by the Rays but designated for assignment the next day and claimed by Cleveland.

Tampa Bay Rays to scout out former closer Kelvim Escobar in Venezuela 12/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2009 8:39pm]
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