CHICAGO -- Luis Torrens was the first to acknowledge that he needed a nearly month-long Minor League demotion. Asked to recount his conversation with Mariners manager Scott Servais when being sent down on May 20, Seattle’s catcher spoke with a sense of relief.
“Even in that moment, I was thinking [that] was the best option to me too,” Torrens said. “But yeah, that was a good option and I'm feeling more free now, and I'm ready to compete. … [It was] just probably in my mind. I’m just ready to compete, enjoy the game and trying to get better every day.”
Torrens is smiling wide again, and for good reason. He crushed two homers in the Mariners’ 9-3 win over the White Sox on Friday, his fourth and fifth in Seattle's nine games since Torrens returned on June 15.
The power was impressive enough, but it was the approach that was more reflective of the improvements he made during his three weeks with Triple-A Tacoma. In the Mariners’ estimation, Torrens has a more cognizant understanding of the strike zone and more emphasis on all-field ability.
His first homer on Friday was on a 75-mph breaking ball from left-hander Carlos Rodón, one of the best starters in the American League. But the more impressive one -- or at least the one highlighting his improvements -- was his second shot, a 367-foot blast off a 96.6 mph heater at the top of the zone from righty Zack Burdi.
“I think Luis is at his best when he's using the whole field,” Servais said. “To see him hit that home run the right field was awesome.”
Torrens’ splits are stark -- a .639 OPS vs. righties and .879 against lefties -- which earlier this season began limiting him to platoon roles. And that became more of an issue when fellow catcher Tom Murphy also experienced pronounced splits.
“He's doing a better job of controlling the strike zone,” Servais said. “He has a good swing. He stays inside the ball well and through the ball using the whole field, and when he does that, good things happen. So again, he's going to strike out. He’s a young player. It’s going to happen once in a while. But I love the way he's swinging the bat, and you can see the confidence growing within every day.”
Servais also mentioned that the mental burden of Torrens’ offense might have led to his struggles on defense, which became more and more glaring following multiple passed balls and mental miscues, some of which had an impact on the outcome of games. So, when Seattle recalled Torrens, it did so with intent to lean more heavily on his bat by allocating him more DH days, like it did on Friday.
“It wasn't just the offense. I thought his offense was affecting his defense as well, and how he was calling the game and kind of his whole game,” Servais said. “He's a better player than what he was doing before. And sometimes, you just need to reset, and I think that's what happened there. So, again, he'll continue to share time with Murph.”
As for his power potential, Torrens has 41 hits this season between Tacoma and Seattle, 13 of which have left the yard. He leads all Mariners hitters in June with a 47.4% hard-hit rate (anything with a 95 mph exit velocity or harder). In his first stint, his hard-hit rate was 33.3%.
Is this the slugger that the Mariners anticipated they were acquiring from San Diego at last year’s Trade Deadline?
“I did think he would have an opportunity to grow into some power,” Servais said. “We're starting to see that. He's hitting those home runs off of really good pitchers. I thought it was a perfect night tonight to DH him.”