Giants prospect Escobar knocking on door of Majors
Left-hander feels ready after facing established players in spring
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants Futures squad was in Scottsdale on Sunday afternoon, playing a split-squad game against a handful of regulars. And yet, 21-year-old Edwin Escobar was on the mound in Glendale, facing the archrival Dodgers before a packed house and going toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw.
It's a sure indication that the organization thinks Escobar is not far from shedding the Giants' future label and becoming the Giants' present.
Yes, it was just a Cactus League game -- the only one between the two National League West foes this preseason, a 3-2 Giants victory. But the fact that the Giants chose Escobar to take the ball Sunday is indicative of how they feel about their left-handed prospect.
"Right now I feel ready," Escobar said. "I feel like everything's going true. I feel ready right now to be in the Major Leagues. I've been facing those guys a lot, and I trust in myself and everything I've got."
Escobar wasn't crisp by any means Sunday, but he held his own. Against a patient Dodgers lineup, he walked four hitters -- including three in the bottom of the first. But after a rough start, Escobar settled down and made it clear exactly why the Giants are so high on him.
In three innings, Escobar allowed one run on one hit. He was never more impresive than in the bottom of the third when he retired the heart of the Dodgers' lineup -- A.J. Ellis, Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez -- in order.
"It was a big challenge for me today, facing those guys," Escobar said. "They are the big team in the National League West, and I felt very good facing those guys."
Signed by the Rangers out of Venezuela, Escobar was acquired by the Giants in an overlooked trade after the 2009 season. At the time, Escobar was just 17 years old, and in his first two seasons in the Giants' organization, he struggled mightily, posting a 5.63 ERA over 33 appearances (28 starts).
But Escobar progressed nicely, adding velocity to his fastball and developing a breaking ball with bite. He also throws a changeup.
"[His fastball] is what he pitches off," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's his best pitch. He's working on the secondary pitches. He's got a pretty good changeup. He's working on the curveball; we've got to tighten that up a bit. But he's close. He's knocking on the door now."
By the end of last season, Escobar had climbed the ladder to the Giants' Double-A club in Richmond, Va. So when can fans expect a leap to the Majors?
"He's close," Bochy said Sunday. "That's why we started him today. He's got a good arm, good fastball, good command."
Escobar was understandably shaky early Sunday, walking leadoff man Chone Figgins, who would score a batter later on Ellis' groundout and Brandon Belt's subsequent throwing error. Escobar loaded the bases, but escaped the threat by inducing a ground ball, and that was the last time he labored.
Entering Sunday's contest, Escobar had allowed just a walk in three hitless innings. He says he hasn't felt nerves yet this spring, even though he's pitching to make a statement for big league action in the near future.
"My real nerves were last year, because it was my first time facing Major League guys," Escobar said. "This year I feel more comfortable with more experience."
Escobar has also been bred as a Giant as well, noting that every time he faces the Dodgers -- at any level -- it's worth getting amped up for.
"In the Minor Leagues, every team we face from the Dodgers, we play with a high intensity," Escobar said. "When we come here with the Majors, we just fight those guys -- go to the field, play hard, try to win the game, do the best we can."
For now at least, the Giants' rotation is comprised of five established arms. Thus, Escobar remains on the outside looking in.
But pitching in the Major Leagues is a fickle business. There's always potential for injuries or for a starter to struggle. If that's the case, Escobar is among the Giants' top options to fill in.
"I just go out there, do the best I can, throw and keep my ball down and be ready for any situation," Escobar said. "I'm just waiting for any call."
And that next phone call from the Giants' front office could very well be the one he's been waiting for since the first time he picked up a baseball.