Kelvin Escobar said earlier today that the reports of him not being able to grip a baseball are untrue – but he won’t be cleared to pick up one until he strengthens his shoulder. Escobar will be working closely with trainer Chris Correnti, who used to be Pedro Martinez’s fitness guru, to build up that strength through plenty of non-throwing exercises first. When Escobar finally makes it onto a mound is anybody’s guess at this point.

“There’s no timetable,” Escobar said. “We’re just going to take one day at a time and go from there.”

The Mets signed Escobar to a one-year, $1.25-million contract with the intention of using him as the set-up man to fellow Venezuelan, Francisco Rodriguez. That’s still the plan, and despite his slower program for spring training, Escobar is not about to abandon that yet. When asked if he’d be ready for Opening Day, Escobar seemed confident – sort of.

“Oh yeah, I think so,” Escobar said. “It all depends on my arm responds to the exercises and my strength.”

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Escobar said he rushed to pitch in Venezuela to audition for major-league clubs, so he believes that six weeks will be plenty of time to get up to speed for the April 5 opener.

“For me to get ready for a game in three weeks in Venezuela was kind of hard to do and I did it,” Escobar said. “So now that I’m here with everything we have here – a good trainer, a great guy that’s going to be taking care of my shoulder - it should be fine. It’s going to be fine. I have a lot of confidence, keeping my faith and staying positive, I’ll be right where I want to be.”