How France, Torrens fit into Mariners' plans

One learned directly from Tony Gwynn; the other hit .300 at Double-A in '19

September 4th, 2020

With 23 games remaining in this shortened season, one of the Mariners’ new objectives will be getting a feel for how two of their latest newcomers -- and -- might fit into their future plans.

France and Torrens are the two players acquired in Sunday’s seven-player swap with the Padres who are already in the Majors and will get plenty of action in the final weeks, with Torrens expected to be the regular starting catcher and France lined up for everyday at-bats, either at designated hitter or various infield spots.

With Seattle getting unexpected days off this week due to the three-game series with the A’s being postponed after a member of Oakland’s organization tested positive for COVID-19, France and Torrens had a chance to work out with their new teammates on Wednesday and Thursday and will be full go when the club opens a four-game set with the Rangers on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.

Here’s a closer look at the two new Mariners:

Have bat, will hit
France was in the middle of a fantasy football draft with some of his Padres teammates on Sunday when manager Jayce Tingler told him he needed to go talk to GM A.J. Preller. France isn’t sure how the rest of his draft went, as everything that followed became a blur.

“It’s been a crazy whirlwind of emotions,” the 26-year-old said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been traded. This is definitely a crazy experience. We just played the Mariners not too long ago. To be on one side and then flip it over, it hasn’t really hit me yet.”

But France expects to hit with Seattle, as that’s what he’s always done -- wherever he’s played. The 5-foot-11, 217-pounder batted .399/.477/.770 with 27 home runs and 89 RBIs in 76 games last year for Triple-A El Paso and was hitting .309/.377/.491 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games this year for San Diego while being used primarily as the DH.

France learned from the best as his coach at San Diego State from 2013-14 was the late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.

“Coming in there as an 18-year-old kid, you look at him and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is Tony Gwynn, the best hitter alive,’” France said. “For me, hitting was my thing. I love hitting, so I went in with the expectation that he was going to make me the next best hitter alive. When you get there, his philosophy was so simple. It was just, 'Get in position and take your best swing.'

“It definitely took a while for me to figure out what he meant by that. In the grand scheme of things, he just simplified hitting. To this day, I try to carry that with me and simplify the game as much as I can.”

The newest catcher
With still out with a broken bone in his left foot that has wiped out his entire season and Austin Nola now a Padre, Torrens will get the chance to catch the majority of games down the stretch.

The young Venezuelan has played 70 games in the Majors, but 56 of those came in 2017, after the Padres took him from the Yankees as a 21-year-old in the Rule 5 Draft and had to keep him on the big league roster for that first year even though he’d never played above Class A ball at the time.

Torrens hit just .163 in 139 plate appearances that season, but he posted a .300/.373/.500 line with 15 homers in 97 games last year at Double-A Amarillo and was 3-for-11 with a double in limited time this season for the Padres.

“It was a really unique year for me, for sure,” Torrens said of his Rule 5 rookie season, speaking through interpreter Ian Kraft. “It was definitely a lot of emphasis on learning, making that jump from the Minor Leagues. I cherish that year and just appreciate the opportunity to be at the big league level and continue to develop.”

Torrens, now 24, took advantage of the chance to work out with the Mariners the last two days to catch as many of the pitchers as possible and begin the familiarization process.

“I’ve been in that spot, getting traded in midseason, and it’s really challenging,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “He’s been trying to catch as many guys as he can here in a couple days. I’ve been really impressed. He wants to learn the guys as quick as possible and that’ll be the real focus for him.”