Alex Torres started the season as a starter for the Durham Bulls. He went 2-2 with a 3.52 but showed great stuff. The Rays, short of pitchers due to injuries, called Torres up in May intending to put the stocky lefty in a long relief role. Needless to say, it worked out well.
Torres got his first win on May 18. After Baltimore knocked out Roberto Hernandez, Torres pitched four scoreless innings in the Rays’ come-from-behind victory. Torres did not give up an earned run until June 24. He quickly moved from mopping up to middle relief, where he became the first option out of the bullpen when Maddon removed the pitcher in the fifth or sixth inning. He also pitched occasionally in the late innings of close games. On August 4, Torres had a 4-0 record with a microscopic 0.26 ERA.
Torres’ performance slipped a little during the August and September pennant drive. From Aug. 7 to Sept. 28, Torres’ strikeouts dropped to less than one per inning, and he went 0-2 with a 3.80 ERA. He took the loss in Game 161, which made 162 a must-win game for the Rays But Torres came back to pitch strongly during the ALDS, where he struck out five in four innings pitched with a 0.00 ERA. And his struggles towards the end of the year don’t overshadow his impressive overall numbers. For the season, Torres won twice as many games as he lost. His 4-2 record, 1.71 ERA, and 62 strikeouts against 20 walks in 58 innings made him arguably the Rays most effective reliever in 2013. He has a chance to be that same type of pitcher for years to come.
Alex Torres will make the league minimum again in 2014 and the Rays will not have to worry about arbitration for three more years. He’ll be 26 next season, and it’s a safe bet that he will be a key piece of the Rays bullpen for the forseeable future. With Fernando Rodney unlikely to return, expect the Rays to move Torres into a setup role next year, and maybe even give him a chance to win the closer job. No matter what happens to Torres in 2014, though, his fastball command, excellent changeup, and even the slider he continues to work on make him the most complete reliever the Rays have, and he is the odds-on bet to be closing games before long.