A little less than a month after the San Diego Padres pitchers and catchers reported to the Padres’ Spring Training facility in Arizona and seven games into the Cactus League schedule, the Padres organization and its fans finally got a look at newcomer Alex Torres.
In what many consider the Padres’ best offseason acquisition, Torres was acquired via trade in late January with high expectations of him stepping in and being a left-handed force out of the Padres bullpen. Unfortunately, Visa issues would delay his spring training arrival, also delaying Padres fans’ first opportunity of seeing their newest bullpen weapon on the mound.
After missing the first 12 spring workouts, Torres arrived to camp on the February 26, which happened to be the day before the team’s first Cactus League game, clearly leaving him behind the other arms in camp. Somewhat shockingly, Torres was on the mound in Cactus League action seven days later — looking exactly like a pitcher that just arrived to camp seven days earlier.
Opting to jump into game before any rounds of live batting practice, Torres stepped on the mound Thursday in the sixth inning of the Padres game against the Texas Rangers.
I wonder, did Torres second-guess his decision to have his first work coming against live hitters when he realized that the first batter he would face in months would be Prince Fielder? Fielder led off the inning with a double — and that would be the beginning of a nightmarish inning.
After back-to-back singles followed the Fielder double, Torres flashed some of the strikeout ability that we’ve been hearing about when he struck out the next two Rangers batters. Torres then walked the next two batters to load the bases before Padres manager Bud Black had seen enough and replaced him with Dennis O’Grady — who proceeded to immediately give up a grand slam.
So what we have is a 34-pitch, five-ER outing over 0.2 innings for Torres’ Padres debut. While that 67.50 ERA sounds horrid, there were some positives to take from the outing. Given that he was facing his first action against batters all spring, some struggles were to be expected. The fact that he was able to battle back from three straight hits by striking out the next two Rangers’ batters was also encouraging.
One other positive is that in this early stage of the spring where the velocity on most pitchers’ fastball is a few ticks below the norm, Torres topped out at 94 mph on his fastball today, a great sign.
While things didn’t go as well as anybody outside of the Rangers would have wanted, Torres deserves a pass given the situation. I personally saw enough from him today to feel encouraged about his future as a member of the Padres, and hopefully today’s outing hasn’t caused any Padres fans to panic — because they shouldn’t.