With his start behind the plate against his former team Saturday night, catcher Luis Torrens has started 12 of the 15 games the Mariners have played since he was added to the active roster.
When he was acquired along with infielder Ty France, outfield prospect Taylor Trammell and reliever Andres Munoz from the Padres in a trade that sent Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams to San Diego, the plan was to play Torrens as much as possible to get an adequate gauge on where he’s at in his development.
He’ll probably get Sunday off and play in at least six of the final seven games.
Signed by the Yankees as an infielder as an international free agent, he was almost immediately converted to catching. His development as a catcher was delayed when he spent the 2017 season with the Padres as a Rule 5 selection, playing at times and looking overwhelmed.
He’s been solid for the Mariners thus far at the plate and behind it. Torrens has posted a .270/.357/.432 slash line with three doubles, a homer, four RBI, five walks and eight strikeouts in 11 games.
“I’ve been impressed with the quality of at-bats he’s had,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said in video call recently. “I do think there’s offensive potential there. He’s swinging the bat very well right now and makes good swing decisions. He’s very quiet at the plate, his head doesn’t move a lot, so he’s got a real good idea of the strike zone. And I like his swing.”
From a defensive standpoint, he’s had moments where he’s looked outstanding. His athleticism and intensity are apparent. He has a strong arm and good footwork for a quick release. But his receiving skills in terms of framing and catching pitches cleanly lacks polish at times. He’s also had some mistakes on wayward pitches that needed to be caught or blocked.
In Friday’s loss, he mishandled some borderline pitches that might have been called strikes and missed a catchable wild pitch. But he also threw the speedy Fernando Tatis Jr. out from his knees on an attempted steal of second.
“That was a phenomenal throw,” Servais said.
Servais said some of the receiving issues Friday were due to the inconsistent command of pitcher Yusei Kikuchi.
“I think he’s learning and he’s growing,” Servais said. “The only way you can learn is you have to go through it. And that’s what we’re giving him right now. We’re giving him that experience. Last night was a tough night to catch. I have been in those games before where your starting pitcher doesn’t have command. You are trying to do everything you can to get him through that third inning and the fourth inning. And you look up and there’s just nowhere to go. You feel for them.”
Torrens isn’t quite the physical specimen compared to Tom Murphy — few players are — but he needs to get stronger to fight off the fatigue of increased playing time. Murphy is still projected to be the starter in 2021 with Torrens as the expected backup while prospect Cal Raleigh will be in Class AAA Tacoma.
“Looking forward to the future with Luis, there’s plenty to build upon,” Servais said. “He needs to get a little stronger and just tighten up a few things in his game. I think the ceiling is really high for him, and I’m really excited about what we’ve seen so far.”