Kelvim Jose Escobar Bolivar
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 205 lb.
Kelvim Escobar was a right-handed starting pitcher who played for the Toronto Blue Jays and for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He began his career as an amateur free agent signed by the Blue Jays out of his native Venezuela, and broke into the majors with Toronto in 1997. After struggling as a starting pitcher, the Blue Jays began to use Escobar as a reliever, and he saved 38 games in 2002. He resumed working as a starter in 2003, and continued to do so afterwards (with the exception of 2005, when he was recovering from an injury).
The hard-throwing right-hander established himself as a strong prospect in 1994, when he posted a 2.35 ERA and struck out 64 hitters in 65 innings with the GCL Blue Jays. He struggled in 1995, but bounced back with 9 wins and 113 strikeouts with the 1996 Dunedin Blue Jays. He appeared in 27 games with Toronto in 1997, all relief appearances. He won three games and saved 14.
The Blue Jays began working Escobar into the rotation in 1998. He appeared in 22 games that season, 10 starts, and posted a 7-3 record. He was 14-11 with a 5.69 ERA in 1999. Few doubted Escobar's talent, but he struggled with consistency. His record fell to 10-15 in 43 outings during the 2000 season. By 2001 he was working almost exclusively out of the bullpen, going 6-8 in 59 games. After saving 38 games in 2002, the Jays sent Escobar back to the rotation in 2003; he turned in 13 wins and 159 strikeouts.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Escobar prior to the 2004 season. In his first three years with the club, Escobar posted a 25-28 record, and his ERA never was above 3.93. He was forced to miss a large portion of the 2005 season with elbow ailments, but bounced back with 11 wins in 2006. Escobar was engaged in a feud with A.J. Pierzynski dating back to a questionable dropped third strike call in Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS. Escobar kept a Pierzynski baseball card in his locker during spring training in 2006 and beaned the Chicago White Sox catcher on April 29th of that year. Escobar said of Pierzynski in an ESPN.com article, "I have never been a fan."
He logged his 100th career victory on September 12, 2007 against the Baltimore Orioles. Many credit Escobar's success to his vast repertoire of pitches. He finished the season with a 18-7 record and a 3.40 ERA and started the second game of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox but was not involved in the decision.
2007 proved to be the end of the good times for Escobar, as shoulder woes wreaked havoc with his career, limiting him to a single start, lasting 5 innings, between 2008 and 2012. That game was with the Angels on June 6, 2009, as he gave up 2 runs to the Detroit Tigers to be charged with a 2-1 loss. He pitched 2 games in the minor leagues in 2008, plus 3 more in 2009, but was not able to overcome his physical problems. He underwent surgery on the shoulder twice, in July of 2008 and May of 2010.
He seemed to be well and truly retired, but surfaced again in spring training in 2013 with the Milwaukee Brewers, trying to earn a spot in the bullpen after, in his words, "not picking up a baseball a single time in a full year" before deciding to give the game one more try. In the interim he worked in two family businesses, one in construction and the other in food preparation. His 12-year-old son pushed him to give it another go, and did well with the Cardenales de Lara in the 2012-13 Venezuelan League, allowing 2 runs in 11 innings.
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2007)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2004)
- 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2002)