It is Kelvim Escobar’s 41st birthday today.
Kelvim was a Blue Jay from 1997 to 2003, pitching in 301 games, 101 starts. He had a 4.58 ERA, 58-55 record and 58 saves.
Kelvim Escobar, from LaGuaira, Venezuela was signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent when he was 16 in 1992 by former Jay super scout Epy Guerrero, out of Venezuela. Latin American players aren't subject to the draft, but then signing them as a free agent as young as 16 seems a bit much doesn't it? Despite less than great control, Kelvim moved quickly through the Jays’ Minor League system and in 1997 he was called up to the majors to work in the Jays’ bullpen and in the second half of the season he became the Jay's closer getting 14 saves with 3 blown saves as a rookie. He had a good ERA (2.90) even though he walked too many, 18 in 31 innings of work. He had great ‘stuff' striking out 36.
Before the 1998 season GM Gord Ash signed free agent Randy Myers to a 3 year $18 million contract to be the closer. To say it didn't work out is an understatement. Randy had a 4.46 ERA in August when he was traded to the Padres to finish out the season and retire. Escobar was moved in and out of the rotation starting 10 games and relieving in 12 others. He ended up with a 3.73 ERA, lowered his walk rate some (35 walks in 79.2 innings) and struck out 72.
In 1999 became a full time starter for the season. In spite of a 5.69 ERA he had a pretty good record of 14-11. He walked 81 in 174 innings and and gave up 19 home runs that season. His strike out rate dropped that season too.
2000 saw Kelvim bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen making 24 starts and 19 relief appearances. He ended up with a 10-15 record and 2 saves. Once again he had an ERA above 5 and gave up even more walks, 85 and more home runs, (26) in about the same number of innings (180).
2001 Escobar again split time between the bullpen (48 appearances) and rotation (10 starts). He brought down his ERA to 3.50 and his strike out rate went up, 121 in 126 innings.
Before the 2002 season JP traded Billy Koch for Eric Hinske and Kelvim became the closer once again. He earned 38 saves but when you give up 10 home runs and 44 walks in 78 innings it is tough to keep a closer job.
In 2002 he was back as a part time starter, part time reliever: 26 starts and 15 relief appearances for a 13 and 9 record. A strike out rate of almost 8/9 innings helped keep his ERA at 4.29 despite walking 3.9/9 innings and having a WHIP of 1.481.
After 2002 he signed a free agent contract with the Angels and had more success there, in between injuries. He had a 43-36 record there over 5 seasons. His best year was 2007 when he was 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA.
In total, he had a 101-91 record, with 59 saves and a 4.15 ERA. In 1507 innings he had 611 walks and 1310 strikeouts.
I always thought he never quite lived up to his potential as a Jay. But he is 9th on our franchise list for wins and 6th in saves (he’ll drop to 7th when Osuna picks up his 3rd save of the season). It is kind of cool that he had 58 wins and 58 saves for the Jays.
Happy Birthday Kelvim. Hope it is a good one.
It is also Turner Ward’s birthday. He is 52 today.
Ward was an outfielder who played 12 seasons in the MLB, split between 6 different teams. 3 of those seasons were with the Blue Jays. He played 98 games, working as a 4th outfielder/pinch hitter. He had a .220/.310/.344 batting line as a Jay. Currently he is the hitting coach for the Dodgers.
Happy Birthday Turner.