Brewers Sunday: RHP Escobar released

If Kelvim Escobar is going to successfully complete his comeback attempt he’s going to do it with a team other than the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers announced Sunday they’ve unconditionally released the 36-year-old after he appeared in just one spring training game.

Escobar was forced to leave last Sunday’s spring training game against the Cubs after just two-thirds of an inning due to a loss of strength in his right hand. He later told reporters that he had a pinched nerve in his right hand.

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash met with Escobar’s agent to discuss what the best course of action would be for the right-hander, determining releasing him now instead of waiting until the end of camp was the right thing to do. Caught in a numbers game, Escobar was unlikely to make the Opening Day roster in Milwaukee.

“If we waited until the end it isn’t fair to him if we don’t think he’s going to make our team,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “This allows him to go out a little earlier, hook on with somebody and get a better shot at making a club.”

Milwaukee took a flyer on the former 18-game winner this offseason, giving him a chance to return to baseball after pitching in just one game since 2007 due to lingering shoulder injuries. After going 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 2007 for the Angels, Escobar injured his shoulder in spring training the following year and had season-ending surgery.

Escobar spent the beginning of 2009 in the minor leagues, but returned to make one start on Jun. 6, 2009. During the five innings he pitched against Detroit that night, Escobar hurt his shoulder again and needed another surgery.

He signed with the Mets in the offseason, but tore the capsule in his right shoulder before he even threw a pitch. Escobar has been out of baseball since, but reappeared in the Venezuelan Winter League, impressing scouts and the Brewers enough to give him a minor league deal.

The release was tough on both Roenicke and Ash, as each have a history with Escobar. Ash was the general manager in Toronto when Escobar pitched for the Blue Jays and Roenicke was on the coaching staff with the Angels during his time in Anaheim.

“It’s tough for us because of the way we feel about him,” Roenicke said. ” . . . He’s a quality person. He’s had a great career and he’s busted his tail to try to come back after a couple of years because of an injury. You always feel for guys like that.”

In 12 big league seasons with the Blue Jays and Angels, Escobar went 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA in 1,507 innings.

Ramirez progressing: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez took batting practice Sunday for the first time since spraining his left knee on March 2.

The initial diagnosis had Ramirez out 1-2 weeks and he’s progressing nicely, according to Roenicke.

“He’s coming along really well,” Roenicke said. ” . . . He’s going to take some ground balls right at him, we aren’t going to move him around much. He’s coming along fast. He’s a pretty tough guy so we need to make sure he’s not still sore when we put him back out there in a game.

“The trainers are happy with what’s happening with him.”

WBC update: Sunday was a day of mixed results for Brewers in the World Baseball Classic.

With six members of the organization playing in the winner-take-all game between the United States and Canada, the Brewers were right in the middle of all the action.

It wasn’t a good day for Brewers relievers Jim Henderson and John Axford, as both played a part in Canada’s loss. Henderson came on in the eighth inning with his country ahead 3-2 and gave up three runs in just two-thirds of an inning to take the loss.

Joe Mauer led off the inning with a single to center and David Wright drew a walk. After getting Ben Zobrist to pop out on a bunt attempt, Henderson gave up a booming double to Adam Jones that scored both runners and gave the United States a 4-3 lead. After a strikeout of Eric Hosmer, Shane Victorino singled to left off Henderson, scoring Jones.

Canada cut the deficit to 5-4 heading to the ninth, but Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy gave the United States an insurance run with an RBI single to right. After a walk, Brewers closer John Axford was summoned for Canada and he allowed an infield single to Zobrist to load the bases.

After getting Adam Jones to pop out, Axford gave up a bases-clearing double to Hosmer, putting the United States up 9-4 and sealing the victory.

With the win, Braun and Lucroy advance with the United States to the second round in Miami starting Tuesday. Canada is eliminated, meaning Axford, Henderson, infielder Taylor Green and minor league outfielder Rene Tosoni will be back in Brewers’ camp as soon as they pass exit physicals.

Joining Braun and Lucroy in the second round are minor league infielder Hainley Statia with the Netherlands and pitching prospect Hiram Burgos and catcher Martin Maldonado with Puerto Rico.

Interviews for this story provided by the Milwaukee Brewers.

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