Torres Struggling To Throw Strikes For Rays





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.—The final element for lefthander Alex Torres to progress from prospect to established major leaguer seems so simple it shouldn't have to be repeated: throw more strikes.

But until Torres shows the ability to become more consistent in repeating his delivery, and thus throwing more strikes, there will be a daunting challenge.

After a solid second half in Triple-A Durham last season, and including two stints with the Rays, Torres seemed ready to take the last step this year. But in the first month of the 2012 season, he instead took a major step backward, demoted to the Durham bullpen after going 1-3, 10.38 in his first five starts, allowing 19 hits and 21 walks in 17 innings.

The biggest problem?

"Repeating a good delivery to throw quality strikes," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said.

So at 24, with two-plus years in the Rays system since his acquisition from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir deal (along with Sean Rodriguez and Matt Sweeney), Torres' main task is a steady repetition of drill work to work on his delivery.

"Are we fairly confident he can do it?" Lukevics said. "You never know when the light turns on in a player. We all have to stay after it."

Torres is a touch shorter than his listed 5-foot-10, but he has a big arm and, when he's on, can dominate. In 15 starts for Durham after June 18 last year, he went 7-2, 2.19 and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of the games. He led all Triple-A pitchers with 156 strikeouts, the second straight year he led his league in strikeouts after fanning 150 in the Double-A Southern League in 2010. He also led the International League with 83 walks.

"When he is good, he shows you three plus pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) that can get major league hitters out," Lukevics said. "But throwing strikes is paramount."

COOL RAYS

• Outfielder Josh Sale, the team's top 2010 draft pick, was promoted to low Class A Bowling Green in early May from extended spring training. Sale hit .210/.289/.346 in 60 games at Rookie-level Princeton last season.

• Durham infielder Cole Figueroa, acquired in the December 2010 Jason Bartlett trade with the Padres, was named the Rays' April minor league player of the month.