By Bill Shaikin
April 16, 2004
ANAHEIM–The season is over for lefthander Joe Torres, a once-promising prospect who will spend the summer rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery.
Torres was the Angels’ first-round pick (10th overall) in 2000 out of Gateway High in Kissimmee, Fla., and signed for $2.08 million, still the largest bonus the team has given a high school player. When he signed, Torres said he expected to reach the major leagues in about three years, but he has yet to get past Class A, and his career has been derailed by a loss of velocity and a run of injuries.
He was limited to 50 innings last season because of an injury to a ligament in his left elbow. Doctors recommended he try rest and rehabilitation first, but months of rehab failed to quell the pain. After consulting with Dr. Lewis Yocum and Dr. James Andrews–Yocum is the Angels’ medical director–Torres opted for surgery.
Andrews performed the procedure in February, and Torres will not play this season.
In his first pro season, Torres went 4-1, 2.54 in 46 innings at short-season Boise, with 52 strikeouts. When he reported the following spring, the Angels grumbled about his poor conditioning. As the season progressed, they grew alarmed by a significant loss of velocity.
“In Boise, his velocity was fine, 92-93 (mph),” farm director Tony Reagins said. “The following offseason, he lifted a lot, got bulkier and a lot less fluid. I think that’s when his velocity kind of went away. He never got back to 91 or 92.”
Reagins said Torres hit 89-90 mph at times last season, before the injury that now threatens his stalled career. But some pitchers recover velocity after surgery, and for all his troubles, he’s still just 21. “If he’s right, he’s still a guy,” Reagins said. “Health is always a question. For me, yeah, he’s still a prospect.”