Could Alex Torres Be the Closer of the Future?

By David Hill

During Spring Training, fresh off his historic season, Fernando Rodney and his agent were doing virtually everything short of taking out a full page classified advertisement requesting an extension. The Rays, holding an additional year on his contract, decided to wait to see how Rodney would perform this year, which made sense given his track record of being league average before 2012.

Thus far, that decision to wait on a potential extension for Rodney has appeared to be the right move, as he has struggled through an inconsistent season, and would seem unlikely to be back in 2014. However, this would leave a potential hole for the Rays to fill at closer. In the past, it had been thought that Jake McGee would be the Rays closer in waiting, but the performance of Alex Torres since he has been brought up may be changing that notion.

Torres has been utterly dominant in a long relief role this season for the Rays, allowing only four hits and five walks against 27 strikeouts in 20 innings. He has not had that much variance between his pitch speeds, hitting roughly 93 MPH with his fastball and sinker, while his changeup is in the mid 80’s, but he has thrown a lot of strikes. 68.1% of the pitches he has thrown this year have been strikes, and he has gotten a swing and miss on approximately 26.5% of those offerings.

As McGee has also been inconstant this season, and Joel Peralta appears to be tiring as of late, it could be possible that the Rays look to use Torres in more high leverage situations in the near future. If he performs well in that role, Torres may end up becoming one of the primary setup men for Joe Maddon, with an eye towards a possible closer’s role down the line. Even though there have not been many left handed closers as of late, the Rays have not had an issue bucking conventional wisdom in their run of success. Potentially turning Torres into a closer would just be another example.

Although he came through the Rays system as a starter, Alex Torres may end up as a bullpen stalwart. His performance thus far this season appears to indicate that he may have found his role for the Rays as a valuable reliever. If he can perform well in high leverage situations, then the Rays may have found their long term answer to the closer position.