Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/19/13
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. The past is a distant memory for Yunel Escobar, something hed rather sweep into a dustbin and forget forever. For good reason, he wants to keep his gaze fixed on the path ahead. His uniform has changed, his colors are different, the clubhouse culture he enters with the Tampa Bay Rays is loose and free. Still, a player's record is never discarded so simply or tucked from view despite the passing of time. Theres a reputation that follows the seventh-year shortstop, acquired by the Rays from the Miami Marlins in December, and he vows to do maintenance on how hes perceived. Its a new year, new team, said Escobar, through catcher Jose Molina as a translator. What happened (in Toronto) could be a mistake, could be bad. But thats last year. This year is a new year. New team. What happened in Toronto was misguided and embarrassing, but it could become a pivot point for Escobar if he allows. On Sept. 15, 2012, he played with a homophobic slur written in his eye black in Spanish during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. That stunt led to a three-game suspension. He was traded to the Miami Marlins in November before being dealt to the Rays a short time later.Escobars visible indiscretion caught on cameras for the world to see and save brought more attention to past criticisms mounted against him. There had been whispers of a lax work ethic throughout parts of his career, one that has included four different teams since 2010. From the Blue Jays to the Atlanta Braves, back to the Blue Jays and now the Rays this is Escobars chance either to buff his image or bruise it further. I think hes in a good situation where hes coming in with a lot of people he doesnt know, Rays second baseman Kelly Johnson, a former teammate of Escobars in Atlanta and Toronto, told FOXSportsFlorida.com. They dont know him. Theyve seen him across the way and know hes extremely talented. I just think a little bit of that uncomfortable feeling of being that new kid in class is going to be something that benefits him. Not to mention the vibe in here I think the guys in here are good fit for him. This is the question that will be answered in time: Will Tampa Bays clubhouse culture elevate Escobar? The Rays see opportunity. Hes a low-risk, possible high-reward talent. Hell make 5 million this season with no guaranteed money after this campaign. Manager Joe Maddon sees him as a possible All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman is confident that Escobar has moved beyond the slur incident, a recovery that makes the player one of the Rays most fascinating personalities to track this season. Maddon is a believer that environment can enhance an individual. That outlook will be tested with Escobar. The Havana, Cuba, native would be wise to follow veterans like Molina, another former teammate, who could serve as a mentor of sorts as he acclimates himself in the Rays' culture. He wants to put everything behind him," Molina said. "So from now on, we want to concentrate on this year. Last year was last year. Forget about it. This year is this year. If this partnership succeeds, both the Rays and Escobar will benefit from the shared company. Escobar adds depth at the plate and in the infield as a quick, skilled glove. He owns a respectable career .282 batting average with 298 RBI and a .353 on-base percentage. Johnson presents Escobars scouting report best: He has power, so hell produce when needed (he earned a combined 99 RBI the past two seasons); he has improved knowledge of the strike zone, which has led to 56 or more walks in two of the past three years (he drew a career-high 61 in 2011); his defense has become more sound in recent campaigns, a night-and-day situation in Johnsons eyes compared with recent years. When it comes to a group, you can create the chemistry that creates the situation that helps you win, Maddon said. Individually, if you bring a guy into a room that, collectively, everyone pretty much feels and thinks the same thing, you can absorb them into that a lot easier. Right now, just watching him, Im really proud of the guys hes been around. Just the way theyve been around him the first couple days, I can see that theyre making a strong effort to embrace these new guys and bring them into do the way we do things. The faster Escobar grows comfortable, of course, the better it will be for him and the Rays. He said, through Molina, that he feels part of the family. He said hell bring energy and enthusiasm to a place he has respected from afar. Well soon see. No, the past cant be forgotten. But it can teach and help a player evolve, which often leads to the best change of all. You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Former 49ers OL: Gabbert will likely start over Kaepernick

Report: Le'Veon Bell recently completed DUI probation

Report: Yankees close to trading Aroldis Chapman

WATCH: Dontrelle Willis' great reaction to Giancarlo Stanton home run

Reports: Sale cut up throwback uniforms with knife in protest


WNBA withdraws fines for teams that protested gun violence

Ezekiel Elliott: ‘Evil NEVER prevails’

Orioles, Padres reportedly talking trades of Melvin Upton, Cashner

Report: Islanders looking at locations to build new arena

Top five takeaways from this year's NBA Summer League

NCAA rules that hanging out with Drake is violation

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

10 NFL players set to become household names in 2016

Lou Holtz regrets making immigration 'joke' at RNC

Report: Royals didn't invite Johnny Cueto to White House visit

Solo not taking any chances with Zika virus while in Rio

Rays reportedly demanding Profar in pitching deal with Rangers

Facebook doesn’t know the difference between Liverpool and Arsenal

Report: Teams asked about Wade Davis, asking price very high

Aussie Rules Football player accidentally kicks, breaks own leg

Former Arkansas football assistant trolls Bobby Petrino on social media

Could Clayton Kershaw's injury hinder trade talks?

Spurs strike a new deal with NBA stalwart Manu Ginobli

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker