Mets reliever Escobar says shoulder is ‘weak’

New Yorks Mets reliever Kelvim Escobar said Friday that his

shoulder is merely weak and any rumors that he is hurt are

untrue.

The former starter signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with

the Mets in late December, despite pitching in only one major

league game since 2007 because of shoulder surgery. He’s expected

to contend for the eighth-inning setup role.

“I am in a program that I have to stick with,” Escobar said.

“It’s not true I am not going to pick up a ball and the things I

heard. You have to take it easy. I don’t want to rush. There is

plenty of time to get my arm in better shape, and it should be

fine.”

The 33-year-old Escobar pitched winter ball in Venezuela, then

didn’t pick up a ball for almost 5 weeks. Although he’s been doing

arm exercises and other workouts, Escobar acknowledged he’s behind

schedule and isn’t sure when he’ll be able to pitch.

There had been concern Escobar might have hurt himself playing

in Venezuela.

“I felt good,” Escobar said. “My velocity was good, my stuff

was good. I shut it down after that because we didn’t make the

playoffs. I didn’t pick up a ball for four or five weeks, and then

I started playing catch and it didn’t feel quite right.”

Escobar said he will start slowly with long toss and throwing on

flat ground, but from there it depends on how his arm responds to

exercises.

Escobar began his career as a reliever with the Blue Jays in

1997, but has bounced in and out of the starting rotation since

then. He recorded 38 saves as Toronto’s closer in 2002, but mainly

has served as a starter in recent years.

He believes going back to the bullpen will be better for him

physically because he will only have to prepare his arm for 20-30

pitches, rather than 90-plus expected of a starter.

“I used to love it,” said Escobar, who is 101-91 with a 4.15

ERA and 59 saves. “I used to love having the ball at the end of a

game, the adrenaline. … I have some experience as a reliever, so

I should be fine. I just have to get my shoulder ready.”