Alex Torres has been recalled to the Rays twice this season and has let his pitching deliver the message that he can be a formidable force out of the bullpen. Manager Joe Maddon has taken notice and believes in Torres as a reliever and that he is a valuable member of the bullpen – not just for length but for spot up duty against righties or lefties. The opportunity to stick in the majors has been presented to Alex Torres and to his credit he has seized it.
On Saturday night Torres entered the game in the 7th inning with the Rays holding an 8-0 lead. The first batter he faced was Chris Davis and he struck him out on three pitches, he retired Matt Wieters on a line drive to Desmond Jennings in center field, and he struck out J.J. Hardy. Both Davis and Hardy were fooled by 2-strike change ups. Davis swung through his and Hardy took his looking. It was a very impressive 10-pitch inning for Torres.
After the game Joe Maddon commented on Torres performance saying:
“He’s becoming a little bit of a weapon right now. That’s what 1 hit in 11 or so innings that he’s pitched. But the composure was good. I was thinking how is he going to react to this moment? What is he going to look like? And he looked good. He was under control, threw his changeup, threw his fastball where he wanted to, and it was kind of nice to watch.”
As Joe Maddon referenced above his numbers over his 5 appearances between two separate call ups from Triple-A Durham are spectacular. He has made 5 scoreless appearances covering 11.1 innings allowing only 1 hit and has struck out 14 batters and walked only 3.
If Joe Maddon thought watching Torres retire Davis, Wieters, and Hardy was fun he had to be ecstatic over Torres last appearance against the Detroit Tigers replacing an ineffective Matt Moore who departed with the bases loaded, nobody out, and Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder due up.
Hunter grounded the ball to Evan Longoria who threw home for the force out for the first out. He then fell behind 3-0 to Miguel Cabrera before coming back to strike him out swinging on a 93 mph fastball for the second out and finally worked out of the jam striking out Prince Fielder swinging at a nasty 85 mph slider.
Despite his impressive showing in the bullpen there are some fans that want Torres to be given an opportunity to start for the Rays. Unfortunately, that would require sending Torres down to Triple-A Durham to stretch him back out for 2-3 starts. Since his recall to the Rays on June 1st he made 52 pitches against the Cleveland Indians, 26 pitches against the Detroit Tigers, and 10 against the Orioles. Since it has been nearly two weeks since he has been extended beyond 52 pitches in order for him to join the rotation he’d have to go to Durham and build up his base over 2-3 starts.
The questions of most importance are whether Torres is better off in the bullpen and if the Rays are better off having him there. After the game Joe Maddon gave his thoughts on whether Torres should be sent back to Durham to be stretched back out as a starter or if the Rays were prepared to take an extended look at him in the bullpen.
“we haven’t really discussed that a lot right at this point, as far as I’m concerned he’s in the bullpen, and he’s a nice member of that bullpen right now. Because I mean he’s showing that he can be more than just length. He could actually spot them up in some tough moments and get some good hitters out – righties and lefties.”
The Rays may still want to send Torres down and recall Josh Lueke when he’s eligible to return from the minors on June 11th (players must wait 10-days to return after being sent down unless re-called due to injury) and stretch him back out to maintain the depth they have with the starters in their system but this seems more and more unlikely.
With Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery, and Jake Odorizzi all stretched out in Durham’s rotation, Chris Archer taking David Price‘s spot in the Rays rotation, and the pending return of Price near the end of the month the Rays may be best served in allowing Torres to begin his transition to a reliever for the remainder of the 2013 season.