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Escobar hopes comeback trail ends with Crew

Oft-injured right-hander has made one apperance in Majors since 2007

PHOENIX -- When he steps on a mound at Maryvale Baseball Park, Kelvim Escobar will launch the latest phase of a comeback five years in the making.

The right-hander, 37 in April, has made all of one appearance in the Major Leagues since 2007, when he won 18 games for the Angels. Felled by a series of shoulder injuries, and unsuccessful in one 2010 comeback bid with the Mets, Escobar is giving it a try again. He is in Brewers camp as a non-roster invitee, bidding for a job in the bullpen.

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The way he sees it, simply getting to camp counts as a victory.

"A lot of people tell me in Venezuela, 'You are going to be someone that young athletes that are going through tough times are looking up to because of what you've been through,'" Escobar said. "When the doctors said you wouldn't be able to pitch, or when I said I was going to retire because my shoulder was done. All of the things involved in those three years."

It's been three years since his last big league camp, with the Mets in 2010. Escobar reinjured his shoulder before throwing a regular-season pitch, had the latest in a series of surgeries and grew so frustrated trying to pitch in Venezuela the following winter that he walked away from the game.

For an entire year, Escobar did not touch a baseball. He spent time with his kids. He spent time in the gym.

"I totally forgot about baseball," Escobar said. "I didn't watch a game, nothing."

When he did pick up a baseball, "it felt kind of weird." But after an awkward week, the old muscles began to fire again. Suddenly he was playing catch at 120 feet and felt like himself. A coach -- Oswaldo Peraza -- was key to the process, Escobar said, by preaching patience.

By last November, Escobar was finally ready to pitch. He appeared in six games, including a pair of starts, for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. Brewers scouts there, including director of Latin American scouting Manny Batista, filed positive reports that reached Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who had once been Escobar's GM in Toronto, and manager Ron Roenicke, who was an Angels coach during Escobar's years in Anaheim.

There's a personal part of Roenicke particularly eager to see Escobar succeed.

"We're going to take it slow with him and see where we are," Roenicke said.

Escobar would earn a $1.1 million base salary in the Majors with $1.1 million more available in performance incentives. He would get $100,000 each for 40 and 45 appearances, $150,000 for 50, 55, 60 and 65 games, plus $100,000 each for 60, 90 and 120 consecutive days on the big league roster. Among Escobar's award bonuses is $100,000 for winning Comeback Player of the Year. He was pitching at 91-94 mph and touching 96 mph in Venezuela, but Roenicke was just as eager to see the rest of his arsenal.

"His offspeed pitches are as good as anybody I've ever seen in the game," Roenicke said. "I would go as far as saying his offspeed pitches are the best I've ever seen."

Escobar is expected to work out with the team for the first time on Monday, and will throw his first bullpen session in the coming days.

"Now I have to be smart and patient, keep working hard and take care of my shoulder," Escobar said. "I'm going to be able to pitch again and help this team."

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