Carlos Torres was making the wrong turn in the runway area at Citi Field late Friday afternoon. Similar to others who played for the New York Mets, he headed in the wrong direction to the home side where he pitched part of three seasons. Then it was the realization he was a MIlwaukee Brewer and had to go to the other side to the visitor’s clubhouse.
And once he arrived to the Brewers headquarters, he was greeted by some familiar faces. Security personnel said welcome back. Inside the Milwaukee clubhouse was his former manager Terry Collins and assistant GM John Ricco.
The white gold, 2015 New York Mets National League Championship ring was presented to Torres in a private moment. Former Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, now a teammate with Torres, also was granted the same honor. Though Torres and Nieuwenhuis were not on the post season rosters, they along with all former Mets who contributed to the special year have been presented championship rings.
“It was nice,” said Torres about the greeting he received from his former manager and the assistant GM. “We just talked about giving me a chance to get my ring. It was something special I will always remember. Nothing but kind words.”
Collins thanked both players for their effort and contributions, and said they will always be remembered for being a part of helping the Mets and organization get to the postseason last year.
“A little different coming in here and going the other way,” he said. His former teammates, many that are still with the team, embraced Torres and wished him well. Then it was time to get to work. Torres knew the routine, met some members of the media, entered the dugout and went on the Citi Field turf as a Milwaukee Brewer.
Nothing different, though for any player it is considered a homecoming. The site and sounds are different and Citi Field is quite a contrast from Miller Park in Milwaukee where there is a retractable roof, and “Bernie Brewer” who takes a slide in the outfield when the home team hits a home run ball.
He no longer commutes back and forth from Manhattan to Flushing on the 7 train. Now, Torres drives the car to Miller Park from his high rise apartment that overlooks a lake.
“It was awkward but a good situation,” said Torres about his visit with former teammates, coaches and hearing some cheers from the fans at Citi Field.
And it was an awkward situation for Torres this past offseason. The 34-year old right hander was released by the Mets, after pitching 243 innings in three seasons and signed a minor league free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves, with an opt out clause. But the Braves went in another direction even as Torres put up good numbers in the spring and the Milwaukee Brewers called and gave him a one-year deal.
“It’s a different town,” he said when asked about the transition to another team.”Doing whatever the team needs me to do and it’s a great organization.” Though Torres is used to the change, having been with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies and going back and forth with minor league organizations.
He said about his former team, “They definitely got better one hundred percent. Still have the pitching, have their bullpen and a few extra pieces.” So there is no bitterness and New York will always be special.
Collins used him often as a spot starter, getting one or two outs of the pen, and as a long reliever when needed. In 2015, Torres may have been arm weary when at times his cutter appeared to lose some steam, but the velocity on that pitch, the fastball, and curve did not seem to have the command he wanted,
Last season, at times, the command was off. There was the inconsistency and skepticism about being used too often out of the pen when Torres would give up the home run ball, and more so during the September stretch of last season, he gave up some costly runs as the Mets tried to wrap things up and clinch the NL East.
Two years ago, Torres established career highs in wins (eight), innings (97.0), and games with 73, and led all Major League relievers with 92.0 innings. The Brewers, also with lefthander and former Met, Chris Capuano out of the pen have depended on righthander Jeremy Jeffress to close games with 11, ranked fourth in the NL.
Friday night in the Mets 3-2 win, Torres faced two and struck out one. He stranded two in the Mets two-run sixth inning and ended a rally when Rene Rivera grounded out on a cutter.
He is content in Milwaukee and getting his share of opportunities, though he gave up the winning run and took the loss against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Torres said again, he never gets discouraged, goes back to review the video and awaits the next opportunity. In 21.1 innings this season, Torres has given up 22 hits, 9-runs with a 3.80 ERA.
He was asked about former teammate Matt Harvey, and the struggles. The Mets starter gave up a career high nine runs Thursday night in the series finale against the first place Nationals at Citi Field. Harvey, (3-6) is the question of 2016 and subject of much talk. Though Torres was in the bullpen, all pitchers are in that small fraternity of baseball and he can relate to the struggles.
“ Everybody has gone through it,” he said. “ If you are a starter, go through a major league season and go to the playoffs everybody struggles. When you look at the aces… Just the way it is. And hopefully when he is not facing us he will get his stuff back.”
He compares the Harvey struggles to other ace pitchers over the years. Justin Verlander, is one in particular who rebounded, and Torres assures the Mets and their fans this word of encouragement:
“There nothing to worry about or panic. That’s the way the game is.” he says. But Harvey is a concern for the Mets, and they say the righthander will start a game against the Washington Nationals on the road next week in their brief three-game swing away from Citi Field.
But that is not a major concern for Carlos Torres. The priority is to continue coming out of the pen and do the job for manager Craig Counsell.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Ma