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Feeling at home, Escobar reports to Rays camp

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar arrived to Rays camp on Thursday for the team's first full-squad workout.

"I'm really happy," Escobar said through team interpreter George Pappas. "I feel like I'm home here in this organization. I felt like I had a really good year last year. So this is good."

Manager Joe Maddon has talked repeatedly about how he thought Escobar should have won an American League Gold Glove Award for his play last season, which he did not. Escobar smiled when "Gold Glove" was mentioned.

"[Winning the award is] something that's out of our hands," Escobar said. "It's nice that someone said that, but that's just how the game is. I've got to keep working hard and maybe this year I can come away with a Gold Glove."

Escobar sounded pleased to have much of the team back, and in particular, the infield.

"Having our whole infield back," Escobar said. "Having Loney, Longoria, Zobrist ... last year went really well. I'm really comfortable working with those guys. And of course, I think we're going to be even better this year."

Escobar arrived to the Rays prior to the 2013 season, complete with baggage, and he told reporters he would not be a problem -- which he has lived up to.

"People can say things about my past, my reputation, but I was able to meet the people here, and that's what they're basing their opinions on," Escobar said. "It's who I am here and how I carry myself here."

Maddon has been Escobar's biggest advocate from the beginning, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the shortstop.

"Joe's been with guys like Bobby Cox and John Farrell, and he's given me a lot of respect -- treated me with a lot of respect," Escobar said. "We're here to win. We're here to play. That's really helped me having that relationship in the dugout."

Maddon called it "very rewarding" to see Escobar have the kind of season he had in 2013.

"It's always up to the player," Maddon said. "Guys like him, you just have to make sure you get on the same page and you understand one another."

Escobar, 31, is just entering his prime, coming off a 2013 season that saw him field his position flawlessly while hitting .256 with nine home runs and 56 RBIs.

"I feel at this point I have the experience, I know the league," Escobar said. "I know the players in this league. I know that's going to help me."

Escobar is confident about what this year's Rays can accomplish.

"Last year, I felt like we had a really good team," Escobar said. "This year, I feel like we have the kind of team that can go to the World Series, that can really battle it out with the Yankees and Boston. We're really looking forward to that."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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