On November 15th, 2012, The New York Mets signed Carlos Torres to a minor league free agent contract with an invite to spring training. The signing was met with no response. Fans didn’t comment when it was brought up on blogs and the internet itself was extremely quiet on the signing. Torres was simply described as a right hand pitcher with major league experience, followed by his career stat line. It was about as nondescript a signing as the Mets have had, especially when one thinks about how desperate the fan and blog world was for the Mets to make a splash in free agency over the past several years.
All of this lack of, well, any response was totally justified. When Torres signed with the Mets, he had just turned 30 and had a career ERA of nearly six in 95 career innings that included six starts. In 2012, Torres has been a reliever with the Colorado Rockies and amassed a 5.26 ERA and 1.415 WHIP in 53 innings over 31 appearances. He had an unappetizing 1.6:1 strikeout to walk ratio and no saves. Torres appeared to be one of thousands of players to make it to the major leagues after years of minor league service (760 innings worth over eight years in Torres case) and just not be good enough. Torres had even spent a year in the Japanese league. It’s no wonder the signing barely caused a ripple.
Torres didn’t make the team and started the year in Triple-A with Las Vegas, where he pitched solidly, making 12 starts, pitching to a 3.89 ERA over 71.2 innings with a solid 3.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. The Mets called him up in June and put him in the bullpen as the long man.
Subsequently, Torres became the most flexible pitcher on the staff. Over the remainder of 2013, Torres made nine starts, 24 relief appearances and finished six games. He filled in admirably in the rotation when Matt Harvey had to have Tommy John surgery and filled in numerous times for multiple inning appearances. In all, Torres threw 86.1 innings with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He posted an excellent 4.4:1 strike out to walk ratio and was nearly forgotten by everyone, even, it appeared, the Mets.
The Mets and the fans all fell into the offseason with excitement. Who would the Mets sign? Would they trade for a shortstop? Who would remain, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? The important, flexible performance made by Torres over 86.1 innings was swept away by the hype. Again, understandable as it was just nine starts and 86 innings, which never matches up against big name free agents, Sandy Alderson interviews and Harvey’s magazine covers.
As things progressed, Torres became less than an afterthought. With the signing of Bartolo Colon and the hype surrounding young relief arms like Jeurys Familia, Torres seemed to be in jeopardy of losing a spot on the team. A report was even made stating that Torres was “guaranteed a spot in the bullpen” as if that was something in need of clarifying.
So, Torres started the season with an unknown bullpen role as the Mets attempted to piece together a bullpen with the likes of Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, while figuring out what they had in Familia and whether Jenrry Mejia was a starter or not. What did Torres do? What he’s done for a year and a half now, pitch well in whatever role he’s given.
Currently Torres has pitched in 31 games, saving two and throwing to a 2.29 ERA over 35.1 innings. He’s averaging over a strike out an inning and one almost never hears a word about him.
Torres has been the closer, the eighth inning guy and the seventh inning guy. Last year he was a starter, long man and Las Vegas fill in. Basically, he’s been whatever the Mets need of him, without a complaint, peep, word or even a compliment from his own team.
The perfect illustration of this dichotomy occurred on Wednesday. In game of the series against the Cubs it was because of Torres that the Mets were even still in the game in the ninth inning. A game that was absurdly slow and long, bogged down by bad play on both sides and innumerable walks, was held in check by a 31 year old relief pitcher who struck out Mike Olt with the bases loaded and then proceeded to strike out two more hitters in the top of the Ninth to keep the Mets in it. No one talked about it. No one commented and even with that, it’s a good bet that Torres would be ready tonight if he was called upon.
The Mets have something very nice in Torres. It’s time he was appreciated.