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Escobar's play impresses Maddon early on

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Now that Joe Maddon has seen Yunel Escobar play some, he's even more pleased about having Escobar at shortstop this season.

Escobar hit an opposite-field home run against the Orioles on Saturday, but that is just one part of Escobar's skill set that has impressed Maddon.

"Good at-bats, he's showing his arm, showing all of his tools right now," Maddon said. "That's what I'm seeing. This guy is a complete baseball player. I don't think he's really been given credit for being all of that in the past. But he has all the necessary ingredients -- all five of them. And I think you're going to see them."

A lot of what the Rays had heard about Escobar prior to acquiring him during the Winter Meetings was negative. In particular, opinions formed after last season's incident when Escobar wrote an anti-gay slur on his eye black. That one resulted in a three-game suspension for the native of Havana, Cuba.

"Then we did our own research," Maddon said. "And there wasn't a whole lot of negative out there. The negative was what happened last year, and that's not going to happen here. But teammate-wise, it's all been positive. I've got nothing but good responses from teammates."

Escobar's strength has caught Maddon's eye.

"You can't appreciate [Escobar's strength] until you see it daily," Maddon said. "I didn't know he was that strong. The range and the foot speed are better than we had seen. And I thought that was there and now we're seeing that. I would say overall athleticism and strength level are greater than I thought."

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