The talented shortstop who came to the Rays with a reputation of being moody, careless and selfish hadn't created any kind of issue or headlines until making his return to Toronto, where he played the previous two seasons.
Booed throughout the series opener Monday, he hit a ninth-inning home run and then as he crossed the plate made a gesture, slashing his arms in an exaggerated safe sign.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Monday that he would talk to Escobar about it "and I'm certain you're not going to see that again."
But after talking with Escobar and hearing him explain that he makes similar gestures on home runs in other places and didn't mean anything by it, Maddon took a different view Tuesday. He said he fully supports his colorful player and likes Escobar's "verve" and animation. He is "a wonderful teammate within our group," Maddon said.
"I love the way he is. I want him to remain the way he is. He did nothing wrong," Maddon said. "People that want to say that he did, that's a fabrication on somebody's part based on your own personal judgments, period."
NEXT: Friday—Yankees (David Phelps, 2-2, 3.83) at Rays (Roberto Hernandez, 2-4, 5.24).
RHP Alex Cobb, who beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday, will be moved up a day in the rotation and will start against the Yankees on Sunday instead of RHP Jake Odorizzi, who will start Monday instead against the Miami Marlins. "Just based on experience," manager Joe Maddon said. "Cobb has been pitching really well, and Jake is new. Why not give Cobber the tougher assignment? … I don't want to say anything bad about Miami, but in general terms, division rivalry, Cobber's had more experience. The Yankees are on a pretty good roll. Let's throw him there."
OF Matt Joyce, who left Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Blue Jays with tightness in his right hamstring, said he felt better Wednesday, but he did not play. Manager Joe Maddon said he expects Joyce to be able to start against the Yankees in the opener of a three-game series on Friday.
3B Evan Longoria started Wednesday's 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays as designated hitter to give his legs a bit of a break. He walked in the third inning and doubled in the ninth to extend his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. He also has reached base in 45 of 46 games.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson allowed a first-inning run on Wednesday for the seventh time in 10 starts this season, including six starts in a row. But he allowed only two runs in eight innings and stood to win until RHP Fernando Rodney had his fourth blown save in 13 chances when he gave up a ninth-inning homer to RF Jose Bautista. Hellickson reduced his ERA to 5.37 as he kept his fastball down and had a changeup working off a good curveball. "He did really well," manager Joe Maddon said. "That was different. That was more like Helly tonight. He has a nice temp about him. He pitched really, really well." Said Hellickson: "Even this last month, I've felt like I've thrown pretty well—just had some bad luck in the last inning I've been out there. Tonight my fastball command was probably the best it's been. I think if I can command that, everything else is a little bit better."
RHP Roberto Hernandez will make his ninth start Friday in the opener of a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. He lasted two innings in his previous start, allowing eight hits and five runs at Baltimore in a game the Rays came back to win 10-6 with a six-run rally in the ninth. In four starts at The Trop this season, Hernandez is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA. He is 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA on the road. In 11 career appearances (eight starts) against the Yankees, he is 1-6 with a 7.16 ERA, his highest ERA against any American League team.
"Even this last month, I've felt like I've thrown pretty well, just had some bad luck in the last inning I've been out there. Tonight my fastball command was probably the best it's been. I think if I can command that, everything else is a little bit better."—
RHP Jeremy Hellickson, after giving up two runs in eight innings against Toronto on Wednesday.
OF Matt Joyce (right hamstring tightness) left the May 21 game and didn't play May 22. Manager Joe Maddon said he expects Joyce to be able to start against the Yankees in the opener of a three-game series on May 24.
C Jose Molina (left hamstring tightness) left the May 18 game, and he didn't play May 19-22. He is day-to-day.
LHP David Price (left triceps strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 16. He is expected to miss the minimum two weeks or only slightly more, according to Maddon.
RHP Brandon Gomes (right lat strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 8 and is expected to be ready on, or close to, his eligible date on May 22.
RHP Jeff Niemann (sore right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 28, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 16. He had season-ending surgery April 10 to repair his rotator cuff and labrum. The expected recovery time is nine-to-12 months.
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Tommy John surgery in September 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list on March 31. He will spend most of the season rehabbing his elbow, with the possibility he could help the Rays in September. Plus, the team holds a 2014 option.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson
RHP Roberto Hernandez
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Alex Cobb
RHP Jake Odorizzi
RHP Fernando Rodney (closer)
RHP Joel Peralta
LHP Jake McGee
RHP Kyle Farnsworth
LHP Cesar Ramos
RHP Jamey Wright
RHP Josh Lueke
1B James Loney
2B Kelly Johnson
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Evan Longoria
DH Luke Scott
INF Ryan Roberts
INF/OF Sean Rodriguez
LF Sam Fuld
CF Desmond Jennings
RF Ben Zobrist
OF Matt Joyce