Only by the fates of nature did Luis Torrens have a chance to return to San Diego to play in his former ballpark so soon against his old team this weekend. But the new Mariners catcher took advantage of the opportunity on Saturday by lacing a two-run double that helped Seattle beat the Padres, 4-1, and delay for a day his former team’s chance to clinch a postseason berth.
With the Mariners’ home series shifted to Petco Park to avoid the poor air quality in Seattle caused by West Coast wildfires, Torrens found himself back in his former ballpark for the weekend, albeit in a largely different role.
Rather than a little-used third-string catcher, like he was for the Padres, the 24-year-old Venezuelan now is the starting backstop for Seattle and is taking full advantage. He's hit a surprising .293/.370/.463 with four doubles, a home run and six RBIs in his first 12 games for the Mariners.
“After I was traded here, one of the things I was most excited about was the opportunity to play every day,” Torrens said through translator Ian Kraft. “I feel like ever since I was given that opportunity, I’ve been able to focus on my offense as well as my defense. I’ve been able to have a lot of success so far, and I just want to be able to continue doing what I’m doing and help the team.”
The Mariners couldn’t be happier with the production from a youngster who’d hit .176 in 70 games with the Padres, though almost all of that came back when he was a 21-year-old Rule 5 Draft rookie in 2017.
“He’s blown me away,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Sunday from San Diego.
Torrens has been hitting the ball extremely hard, packing considerable punch with his 6-foot, 208-pound frame. His average exit velocity of 94.3 mph is third highest in MLB behind only the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Twins’ Miguel Sanó among players with 40 or more batted balls, per Statcast.
“When you look at the swing, when I first laid eyes on him here the first couple days, I thought this has a chance to be pretty good,” Servais said. “It’s how you make adjustments, how you work through at-bats, his ability to control the strike zone and swing decisions. He has a good swing on top of that. I think he’s just scratching the surface on the type of offensive player he could be.”
Servais said plans are already being put together for an offseason program to help Torrens add 8-10 pounds of muscle to help him withstand the rigors of catching a full season.
“This guy is not filled out and fully mature, not as strong as he can become yet,” Servais said. “I think the experience gained as he gets to know the league and how to continue to make those adjustments, he’s only going to get better. I think there’s power in there as well.”
For Torrens, it wasn’t easy being traded away from a contending Padres club midseason. But he’s grateful for a new opportunity to be a bigger part of a club, even with the challenge of learning so much in short order midseason.
“It’s been great,” Torrens said. “I’ve had the opportunity to get here and work hard every single day, to prepare myself every single day. Obviously, coming to a new team, I had to learn a lot of new pitchers very quickly. That’s just part of the territory, part of the job. And right now I feel very good about it.”
Quite a balancing act
If you’re looking for consistency, check out the production of Ty France this season. Prior to Sunday’s game, France had 61 plate appearances with the Mariners, the exact same number he’d had with San Diego prior to being traded to Seattle along with Torrens as part of a seven-player swap on Aug. 30.
In those 61 plate appearances, France had the identical slash line of .309/.377/.491 with each team. France was 17-for-55 with two home runs for both teams. While he had four doubles with San Diego and two with Seattle, that was offset by a triple and one more single for Seattle. He also had six walks with the Mariners and five for San Diego, but he balanced that by being hit by a pitch while with the Padres.