At the beginning of the season, Carlos Torres wasn't expected to be a huge factor in the New York Mets' bullpen. Torres was in the group as the team's swingman, ready to go multiple innings in the event a starter got knocked out early. That went out the window on Opening Day, when Bobby Parnell was lost for the year with an elbow injury. Everyone's roles started to change, and Torres slowly moved up the food chain. After nearly a month of action, Torres has suddenly become the Mets' set up man and one of the bullpen's most valuable members.
Torres, 31, has already appeared in 14 of the team's first 26 games and has been outstanding for them. Torres is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and a 17:7 strikeout to walk ratio over the first month of action. Torres proved himself in the middle innings while other relievers were struggling, and he has ascended to the set up role after Kyle Farnsworth became the closer. Torres' success with the Mets has definitely been surprising, especially since he was out of the majors in 2011.
Torres' ability to seize the eighth inning has been a positive for the entire bullpen, which has stabilized now that more roles have begun to be defined. The Mets do need to be careful, however, with how much they are using Torres. Torres has already pitched in over half of the team's games, and has warmed up in several others. Torres has a rubber arm, so he should be able to handle the pace for now, but he could break down if he continues to be over used.
A parallel for Torres could be found with former New York Yankees' reliever Tanyon Sturtze. Sturtze, like Torres, washed out as a starting pitcher before finding new life in the bullpen. Sturtze had a strong start to the 2005 season, and then Yankees' manager Joe Torre frequently called on Sturtze to get the team out of jams. Sturtze pitched 78 innings in 64 games for the Yankees in 2005, compiling a 5-3 record in relief. The very next season, however, Sturtze went down early in the year with a torn rotator cuff and was never the same pitcher.
This is not to say that Torres is an arm injury waiting to happen. The Mets simply should try and give him a few more days off over the next few months if they want to keep him fresh over the course of the season. The Mets may be able to do that now that Daisuke Matsuzaka has adapated well to life as a reliever. The Mets have been using Matsuzaka in the later innings his last couple of outings, and he could be just the guy to give Torres a break every now and then. Either way, Torres' emergence as an eighth inning man is a very welcome development for the Mets.
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