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Escobar signs deal with Angels
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11/24/2003  1:29 PM ET 
Escobar signs deal with Angels
Free agent pitcher inks three-year contract with club
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Kelvim Escobar signed a three-year deal with the Angels worth an estimated $18.75 million Monday. (Matt Sayles/AP)
• Fantasy analysis on the deal

The Angels couldn't do anything against Kelvim Escobar in 2003, and they won't have to do anything against him in 2004.

The club announced Monday that it has signed the flame-throwing free-agent right-hander to a three-year deal.

Escobar, who made $3.9 million last season, receives a $750,000 signing bonus and yearly salaries of $5.5 million, $6 million and $6.5 million.

Escobar was introduced in Anaheim at an Edison Field press conference led by Angels general manager Bill Stoneman. He will wear uniform No. 47.

"I'm very happy and very excited to be here," said Escobar, who will turn 28 the first week of the 2004 season.

"I've always had friends in Anaheim. I can't wait to be part of this team because I know we are a good team and a lot of good things are going to happen this year with the Anaheim Angels."

Escobar has been a starter or closer for the Toronto Blue Jays in all of his seven seasons in the Major Leagues.

He saved 38 games as the team's full-time closer in 2002, then shifted to the starting rotation in May and ended up pitching a career-high 180 1/3 innings.

Stoneman opened the press conference by stating one concrete fact.

"He's not going to be bouncing back and forth here," Stoneman said. "He's going to be in our starting rotation."

Escobar excelled in that role for most of 2003, going 13-9 with a 4.29 ERA overall and striking out 159 batters while walking 78. He was dominant in three games against the Angels, two of them starts.

Escobar, whose fastball can reach 98 mph, also features a cut fastball, a split-fingered fastball and an occasional curveball. He went 1-0 against Anaheim with 13 1/3 shutout innings in 2003, giving up six hits to the Angels and striking out 10.

The Angels batted .136 against Escobar in 2003, the lowest batting average for any team off the 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of La Guaria, Venezuela. Escobar pitched six innings or more in all but four of his final 23 starts.

He also sported an 8-2 record with a 2.84 ERA and a .224 batting-average-against on grass fields, of which Edison Field is one.

He wasn't so successful on artificial turf, going 5-7 with a 5.51 ERA and a .305 batting average against. Escobar had a 2.76 ERA away from SkyDome last year.

Stoneman said in September that the Angels' No. 1 priority in the offseason would be to sign a front-line starting pitcher to join Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz and Aaron Sele, allowing Scot Shields to go back to his role as long reliever.

After the recently completed general manager meetings in Phoenix, Stoneman said his second task would be to get an "outfield bat."

With the signing of Escobar, as opposed to Andy Pettitte or Bartolo Colon, Stoneman has more money to work with.

Pettitte and Colon would most likely be seeking about double the yearly salary of Escobar, so Stoneman can now make an offer to an outfielder, such as Shannon Stewart, and possibly go after an impact shortstop.

Miguel Tejada and Kazuo Matsui have reportedly been players of interest to Anaheim.

That's why Stoneman was in a good mood Monday after outfitting Escobar with a new Angels cap and jersey.

"This is a fun way for guys who do what I do to start the offseason," Stoneman said.

"We said our first priority was to improve our starting pitching, and to be able to fulfill what you're trying to do by signing someone like Kelvim feels rewarding and fun. I kind of wish the season was starting a little earlier."

The Boston Herald reported Friday that the Red Sox were prepared to offer a three-year deal to Escobar but didn't want to give him more than $5 million a year. The Blue Jays had offered two years and $10 million.

Escobar said five teams were interested but that he gave his agent, Peter Greenberg, special instructions.

"I told him, 'You better listen to Anaheim, because I really want to be there,'" Escobar said.

"I'm very happy to be a starting pitcher, and knowing I'm going to be here for three years, and with the bullpen we have, I don't have to worry about it," Escobar said.

"I'm very confident in the guys I have behind me."

When asked if he was familiar with any of those guys, he said, "The only one is K-Rod," referring to Venezuelan countryman Francisco Rodriguez, one of the Angels' top relievers.

"Three weeks ago I saw him (in Venezuela) and told him that Anaheim is showing interest, so we might be teammates this year," Escobar said.

"He was very excited."

Escobar also said he was familiar with Angels first-base coach Alfredo Griffin and some of the other coaches.

He said everything else that was attractive about Anaheim was seen from the other side of the field.

"You can see the teamwork, the way the players are," Escobar said. "And the fans, too. Those were they keys to signing here. I heard good things about (manager) Mike (Scioscia) and the front office."

"You hear good things and it helps you make a decision. What I'm doing right now is making the best decision of my life."

Escobar comes to the Angels with one piece of baggage. He is being sued for $8 million for an alleged sexual assault in 2002. Escobar denied the charges in court in Canada. His representatives called the lawsuit "a blatant attempt to extort money."

Doug Miller is a reporter for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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