Escobar doesn't start, but pinch-hits in return

Escobar doesn't start, but pinch-hits in return

Escobar doesn't start, but pinch-hits in return
ST. PETERSBURG -- Yunel Escobar will have to wait at least one more day before making his return to the Blue Jays' starting lineup.

Escobar received a three-game suspension earlier this week for writing a homophobic slur on his eye-black patches during a game on Sept. 15. He was eligible to return on Friday night, but manager John instead opted to leave Escobar on the bench for the series opener against the Rays.

Farrell sat down with Escobar on Friday afternoon and during their meeting it was decided Toronto's shortstop wasn't mentally ready to get back on the field for a full game.

"When we met earlier today, it became increasingly clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a Major League game," said Farrell, who did eventually use Escobar as a pinch-hitter during the eighth inning of a 12-1 loss to the Rays. He singled on a ground ball to left field.

"It wasn't his choice. It became very clear during our discussions about all that has taken place, all that is potentially anticipated going forward, that he needs another day."

It wasn't immediately clear when Escobar could find himself back in the starting lineup. Farrell said that could possibly happen on Saturday, but it could also be determined at that time the native of Cuba needs a longer break.

Escobar arrived at Tropicana Field on Friday expecting to play, but seemed accepting of the club's decision during yet another contrite scrum with reporters.

The 29-year-old departed for Florida on Tuesday to help clear his head and prepare for the Rays series. It's just that his state of mind hasn't progressed as originally hoped while he continues to deal with the fallout of his own actions.

"It has been really tough on me," Escobar said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I haven't slept well the last three or four days. I've been receiving a lot of calls from friends and family to give me some support, but it has been hard for me knowing that I made a mistake, I hurt some people, it has been really hard for me.

"I put myself into it. It's going to take a little awhile ... I took ground balls yesterday, I took ground balls today and I'm going to start putting my mind back in the game today so that I can play a Major League game."

Escobar has been forced to deal with the brunt of the criticism from the public and media, but it's the type of unfortunate situation that also has an impact in the clubhouse.

Almost all of the Blue Jays have been asked to comment on Escobar's actions, while others have received heat for apparently not noticing what had been written on the eye-black. Whether or not that's true, the storyline has become a distraction and it can't go away fast enough for the ballclub.

"There have been a wide range of reactions," Farrell said. "Surprise with the suspension, because in their minds, this wasn't an issue. To the other end of the spectrum, that because of the issue, there have been a lot of questions that have been answered by other people inside of the clubhouse that otherwise might not want to answer them.

"But he's a teammate and we can't turn on a teammate. It is part of our family as the Blue Jays to support him, to correct what might need to be corrected and to move on together as a group."

Despite Escobar's initial absence on Friday night, he's still expected to start at some point this weekend. In all likelihood, the Blue Jays will want to get him back onto the field for at least a couple of games before they return home next Friday.

Escobar's first game back on the field, and his return to Rogers Centre, will cause at least some form of distraction for the players. If the events can be divided into two, then at least some of the attention goes away before the club travels north of the border.

There's a small criteria of stipulations that Escobar will have to pass, though, before he's allowed to start again.

"In talking with him, just a sense that he has some of these distractions under control," Farrell said. "That he can focus on the task at hand once he gets back into the lineup.

"We recognize too that he'll be a focal point and we spoke of that, how he plays, how he goes about his actions on the field, what some of the response might be from people in the crowd. That might be a further distraction if he's not accepted for whatever performance he does on the field and know that that might be forthcoming."