It is Kelvim Escobar’s 47th birthday today.
Kelvim was a Blue Jay from 1997 to 2003, pitching in 301 games, 101 starts. He had a 4.58 ERA, a 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 signing them as free agents as young as 16 seems a bit much. 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. In the second half of the season, he became the Jays’ 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. 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 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. Despite a 5.69 ERA, he had a good 14-11. He walked 81 in 174 innings and gave up 19 home runs that season. His strikeout rate dropped that season too.
2000, Kelvim bounced 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 strikeout rate went up to 121 in 126 innings.
Before the 2002 season, JP traded Billy Koch for Eric Hinske, and Kelvim became the closer again. He earned 38 saves, but it is tough to keep a closer job when you give up 10 home runs and 44 walks in 78 innings.
In 2002 he was back as a part-time starter and part-time reliever: 26 starts and 15 relief appearances for a 13 and 9 record. A strikeout 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 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 10th on our all-time win list and 7th in saves.
Happy Birthday, Kelvim. I hope it is a good one.
It is also Turner Ward’s birthday. He is 58 today.
Ward was an outfielder who played 12 seasons in the MLB, split between six teams. Three of those seasons were with the Blue Jays. He played 98 games for the Jays, working as a 4th outfielder/pinch hitter. He had a .220/.310/.344 batting line as a Jay. He is currently the hitting coach for the Cardinals.
Happy Birthday, Turner.
And Cavan Biggio turns 28 today. Cavan has played 342 games for the Jays. His hitting line is .227/.346/.393, with 38 home runs. He must lead the league in being robbed on bad strike calls. Whenever I look at the Umpire Scorecard, one of his at-bats is listed in the ‘three most impactful miscalls’.