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Escobar brings certain flair to the field

ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Rays acquired Yunel Escobar at December's Winter Meetings, manager Joe Maddon talked about the "chrome" the team's new shortstop brought to the field.

In deference, Maddon said during the 2012 season that Ben Zobrist, who finished out the season as the everyday shortstop, had no chrome -- or flash. But Maddon allowed that Escobar was something special, so if chrome was part of his game, he wasn't about to ask him to change.

Much of Escobar's flash can be seen in his mannerisms on the field, such as wagging his bat like a Keystone Cop as he strolls to the plate, offering the safe sign when he crosses home plate after hitting a home run and acting like he's making a jump shot after making a play in the field.

Some might label Escobar a hot dog. But Escobar explained that his behavior is just a part of who he is.

"Since I've been playing as a little kid in Cuba, I haven't felt like I was showing somebody up," said Escobar, who went 0-for-3 in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Twins, with bench coach Davey Martinez translating. "I've played for a couple of organizations that didn't like when I did that. Now I feel like I can be myself here. They don't downgrade my style of play as long as I'm catching the ball and hitting the ball. I'm comfortable and having a lot of fun."

In regard to the basketball gesture, Escobar explained that his teams have said they like when he does it, so after he makes a long throw, "I come up like I'm making a three."

"I've always liked basketball and played basketball in the winter time to stay loose," Escobar added. "I don't want to offend any other team. It's just something I've been accustomed to doing. It's the way I play, so I hope I'm not offending the other team, because I'm just out there having fun."

Escobar smiled when a visitor asked if he was saving up any gestures that Rays fans have not yet seen.

"I really don't know when I'm going to do something," Escobar said. "If something pops up that you like, let me know."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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