AMARILLO, Texas — Luis Torrens was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2017 Rule V Draft and spent a full year at 21 on the big league roster before being returned to the minors last in High-A Lake Elsinore.
The Venezuelan was signed by the New York Yankees in 2012, but a series of injuries cost him development time and with San Diego, he only received 135 plate appearances. Last season with the Storm he posted a slash line of .280/.320/.406 and most importantly got into 122 games, the most in his career.
“I think calling games is his biggest improvement and handling the low pitches,” said Edwin Rodriguez his manager last year with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm. “Like everyone, he still needs to work on all aspects of his game, but he has improved.”
This year he is the everyday catcher with the Sod Poodles and so far has put up solid numbers at .294/.400/.456.
MadFriars: You have had a good year, but the other night was really impressive. The Sod Poodles are up 1-0 in the ninth inning, bases loaded and two outs with a full count.
You call for a splitter from David Bednar that you know is going to bounce in front of you. You block the ball and tag the runner for the out. After the game, your manager Phillip Wellman said he was really proud of you for calling that pitch.
What went through your mind?
Luis Torrens: [laughs] Yes, that was a good call. In that situation, I am only thinking about what can I get the batter to swing at. My goal is always to win the game and I need to be able to do everything I can to help my pitcher do it.
If I were the batter that is not the pitch I would be looking for. You must have a lot of confidence in your ability to block pitches.Luis Torrens: Yes, and in that situation, I am also really excited. The only thing that was going through my mind other than it being the right pitch was to keep it in front of me.
You have been in the big leagues, so you must know that the ability to stop that type of pitch is something you have to do.
Luis Torrens: For sure, but you always have to expect the bad or tough pitches. If they throw it in the middle of the plate it’s easier to catch, but also to hit.
How do you get used to working with the pitching staff? Does it start in Spring Training?
Luis Torrens: Almost all of the guys here I played with in Lake Elsinore, so I am very familiar with them. Some of the others I have learned here, but I have caught many of the pitchers here for a while.
You are responsible for calling all of the pitches and the locations. How much of your day is taken up by going over the scouting report?
Luis Torrens: The first time for a while, but it’s not as much as you think. There are only eight teams in the league so we have a good idea of what we want to do.
What part of your game has improved the most since you came over to the Padres’ system from the Yankees?
Luis Torrens: My receiving. [laughs] Making balls into strikes.
The key is to have as little movement as you can with your glove hand. Anytime you can move the count from 1-0, 0-1, or get that extra strike it’s much better for the pitcher.
That was my biggest goal in the offseason.
The most difficult part of catching is that you are expected to do so many things in addition to trying to hit. What has been going well for you offensively?
Luis Torrens: I try to separate the defense from the offense. When I hit, I hit. When I catch, I catch. If you mix them up it doesn’t help anyone.
For hitting I try to keep my body quick and get good contact and that’s all you can really do.
As a hitter do you find yourself thinking like a catcher. Trying to think how you would get yourself out?
Luis Torrens: Of course! If I take a bad swing I think if it were me I would throw it to him again.
What are you trying to work on most this year?
Luis Torrens: As with last year, just stay healthy. If I can stay healthy, I know I will be able to continue to work and get better.