2/20/2014 3:19 P.M. ET
Feeling at home, Escobar reports to Rays camp
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
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."
Zobrist day to day with tweaked lower back
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ben Zobrist tweaked his lower back, which will have the Rays second baseman listed as day to day for the next couple of days.
"I was in the weight room [Wednesday] and I tweaked it," Zobrist said. "It's just tight and sore right now. Just going to have to wait a couple of days before I get started."
Though starting Spring Training injured would seem frustrating, Zobrist took his situation in stride.
"At this time [it's not that frustrating]," Zobrist said. "I've been through all the fundamentals they're going to be going through the next couple of days, and I don't think it's going to be hard for me to pick those up. ... [The injury is] nothing serious that's going to keep me from playing or from being ready for our first Spring Training game."
Rays manager Joe Maddon echoed Zobrist in regard to the nature of the injury.
"Talking to [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield], hopefully it's not going to take him too long," Maddon said. "It's unfortunate he had that little bit of an accident there. ... See how he is tomorrow, but Ronnie does not anticipate a lengthy kind of a problem or concern. Ronnie and Zo, neither one thinks it's awful. But it's there right now and he really can't participate."
Nix notes difference from Yankees camp
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jayson Nix spent the past two seasons in New York playing for the Yankees. This season, the veteran infielder is with the Rays on a Minor League deal with an invite to Major League camp.
Initially, walking into the Rays' clubhouse struck Nix as funny.
"It's definitely different," said Nix, noting the lack of media in Port Charlotte covering the Rays, as compared to the throng of reporters around the Yankees. "I think it's different [with the Yankees] than anywhere. It's definitely a lot less of a crowd and a lot less tension so far."
Despite the differences between the two clubhouses, Nix said he wasn't distracted when he played for the Yankees.
"I think it's something you're kind of prepared for and you get used to it while you're there," Nix said. "I never really found it that difficult. You get in the clubhouse and you're around the guys and you get kind of lost in what you're doing. Or try to. It might make it a little more difficult at times. For the most part, I didn't find it a problem, though."
• On Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET, Chris Archer will visit The Academy, an alternative high school in Port Charlotte that serves students in the district who would otherwise not complete their high school experience. Archer will speak to and answer questions from an assembly of students at the school.
• Don Zimmer, senior advisor of baseball operations, showed up in camp on Thursday, much to the pleasure of all the Rays.
"He's starting to look as good as he did in that old Brooklyn Dodger baseball card," Maddon said. "He's lost all that weight. He's got that good look in his face. He's got a bounce about him. It was great to have him down here. And the players really, really dig having him."
• Infielder Wilson Betemit, along with right-handers Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval, have still not arrived to camp due to visa issues.
• The Rays have announced four acts for the 2014 Summer Concert Series: Weezer, The O'Jays, Imagination Movers and The Wiggles. Each concert is free with the purchase of that date's game ticket, and it will begin following the conclusion of that date's game. In addition to their game tickets, fans can watch the various acts from the field by purchasing field access passes available at raysbaseball.com/concerts.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.