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New Blue Jay Escobar gets clean slate with Toronto

BALTIMORE (AP) — Yunel Escobar says he was misunderstood in Atlanta, and Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston intends to provide his newly acquired shortstop a clean slate in a different city.

"I'm really happy to get the opportunity to prove myself once again," Escobar said through a translator, Toronto bench coach Nick Leyva. "The only thing I can do now is give 100 percent."

Escobar, acquired in a five-player deal with Atlanta on Thursday, was scheduled to make his Toronto debut Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The 27-year-old Escobar, who drew the ire of Braves manager Bobby Cox for what was viewed as lackadaisical play, said he was caught off-guard by the trade that sent him to the Blue Jays.

"There was a problem (in Atlanta)," Escobar said. "I feel bad that I was getting a label I don't think I deserved. It was inappropriate because I'm not the type of person and not the type of player that people were putting the label on me as being."

Gaston, who met with Escobar when the shortstop arrived at Camden Yards for a Thursday workout before the start of the season's second half, said he's not paying attention to any Atlanta-based criticism of his new player.

"I think that's the only way to go," Gaston said. "I think you hear all these things, and listen to all these things, and kind of keep your eyes open for it. But you have to see it for yourself."

Toronto acquired Escobar and left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes in exchange for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and two minor leaguers. The Blue Jays are hoping that Escobar, who hit .299 with 14 home runs and 76 RBIs last year, can rediscover his hitting stroke with a new team.

Escobar was batting .238 with no homers and 19 RBIs in 75 games at the time of the deal.

"It's basically been more of a physical thing than anything else," Escobar said.

Despite his reputation for uninspired play with the Braves, Escobar thinks he can repair his image by being a good player and a good teammate.

"I was giving it my all when I was in Atlanta, so I can't say I would have played any different," he said.

Joining a new team gives Escobar an opportunity to re-establish himself as a solid major leaguer.

"I was a little surprised by it. I had no idea I was going to be traded. I hadn't heard anything that I was about to be traded," Escobar said. "But I welcome the opportunity to play for a new team and get a fresh start for the second half."