Rays' Maddon now defending Escobar's gesture

Yunel Escobar says this “safe” gesture after his ninth-inning home run Monday is something he had done previously this season.
Yunel Escobar says this “safe” gesture after his ninth-inning home run Monday is something he had done previously this season.
Published May 22, 2013

TORONTO — Upon further review, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he had no problem with SS Yunel Escobar's post-home run gesture Monday and took issue with anyone who did, as well as the Toronto fans for booing ex-Blue Jays players.

On Monday, Maddon said, "I still want to talk to him about the reaction after the home run. And I'm certain you're not going to see that again."

But Tuesday, Maddon changed his tone, if not his mind, saying Escobar "did nothing wrong" and that, "I'm never going to attempt to subtract from his celebratory manner."

Escobar explained that he usually makes a similar gesture and it was not aimed at the Jays or the Rogers Centre fans who had booed him all game, and Maddon was good with it, praising Escobar's "animation" and "verve" and calling him "a wonderful teammate."

"Some people point to the sky, he shows a safe sign," Maddon said. "For me I love the way he is. I want him to remain the way he is. He did nothing wrong. … People that want to say that he did, that's a fabrication on somebody's part based on your own personal judgments, period."

Maddon also questioned why Toronto fans so often boo former players upon their return.

Escobar, meanwhile, said he still didn't understand why so much was made of his gesture since he did it previously this season. As he talked to reporters, the clubhouse TV showed MLB Network hosts doing a segment on and a discussion of the incident.

There didn't appear to be any hard feelings among the Jays players, as Escobar talked and joked with several before batting practice, and he also signed autographs for some fans.

JOYCE OUT: OF Matt Joyce left in the seventh inning with tightness in his right hamstring. Maddon said, "I don't anticipate anything bad,'' and that Joyce wasn't starting today anyway.

MORE MEDICAL: Though C Jose Molina is said to be feeling good and available, he may be held out until Friday to be sure he is over the left hamstring tightness that forced him out Saturday. … Injured LHP David Price (triceps strain) "has been playing catch a little bit" at the Trop and is "doing fine" but Maddon said, "I don't have any kind of a finish line yet."

TORNADO CONCERN: RHP Jamey Wright grew up and still has close family in South Oklahoma City, just 2-3 miles from the path of the tragic tornado. Wright said his parents, sister and in-laws were all safe, though there were some anxious moments until all were accounted for, especially when his wife, Marnie, was on the phone with her parents as they fled, and the line went dead. "Everybody was fine," Wright said. "But I know people who lost homes. … It's just awful."

PITCHING IN: The Rays plan "for now" to keep their rotation in order through Thursday's off day, though Maddon said it might change for the series with the Yanks. As of now, RHP Roberto Hernandez starts Friday (vs. David Phelps), then LHP Matt Moore (vs. Vidal Nuno) and RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. CC Sabathia.) The Rays could skip Hernandez and/or have RHP Alex Cobb pitch the Sunday game.

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MINOR MATTERS: Prospect OF Josh Sale was eligible to be reinstated Tuesday after serving a 50-game drug-related suspension but will be kept in extended spring for at least a few more days before joining Class A Charlotte as he was sick and out most of last week.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria extended his career-best hitting steak to 15 games and has reached in a major-league-most 44. … Assistant hitting/catching coach Jamie Nelson left the team for a family matter. … Today is a day game due to a labor agreement provision forbidding a team heading home for an off day (and with a flight longer than two hours), as the Rays are, from starting play after 5 p.m.