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Some Flowers for Luis Torrens

A regular season of ups and downs ended on an impossibly high note for the M’s backup catcher, and now he’s bound for Toronto.

Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Anyone who’s followed the Mariners even casually this year knows it’s been a pretty wild season for Luis Torrens. After starting the season as one of three catchers on the Opening Day roster, his bat got off to a slow start - whether a bout of COVID in April was to blame or not, it took him until August 6th to notch his first homer of the season, one year after he bashed fifteen. Despite a season-ending injury to Tom Murphy, he saw his playing time dwindle as the summer marched on thanks to the emergence of Cal Raleigh. With the deadline acquisition of Curt Casali, even a 13th-inning walkoff hit against the Yankees wasn’t enough to save his spot on the roster, and he was designated for assignment on August 11th.

After seventeen games in Tacoma, though, he was summoned back up to Seattle amid a small flurry of roster moves, bashing a pinch-hit homer in his first at-bat back with the club. Maybe that should have been taken as a good omen.

Through it all, Torrens never lost his drive. Despite moving from a semi-regular role in 2021 to a more traditional backup spot, his goal of improving every facet of his game didn’t waver. That even extended to dipping back into his tools as an infielder, as he was signed as when he joined the Yankees org in in 2012. Carson Vitale, the coach he works most often with, was effusive in his praise: “He’s diligent with his cage work, he’s diligent with his catching and receiving work, and he’s been taking ground balls at third base and second base, because he knows at any given moment, he could be put in the game and help the team win in a unique circumstance.”

During his stint in Tacoma, he started a handful of games at second base, and took plenty of pregame grounders at third over the last couple weeks of the regular season in Seattle to keep his throwing arm and hand-eye coordination sharp. That paid off in a big way in Friday’s clincher, when he nabbed Conner Capel trying to steal in the top of the second inning.

Look at where he receives the ball, too - reaching across his body before the pop-up! That’s not an easy starting point!

Just three pitches later, Langeliers smoked a home run off the hand-operated scoreboard in left field to tie. Had Luis not thrown out Capel, the M’s would have been playing from behind all evening, and Raleigh’s big fly in the ninth may not have even happened. The walkoff to punch Seattle’s postseason ticket understandably got all the national love, but this right here? That’s my lowkey play of the game, and while it may not have grabbed headlines, everyone in that dugout knew how important it was. It also highlighted just how much his arm has bounced back from last season. In 2021, Luis threw out just three would-be base-stealers out of 25 attempts - a pitiful 12%, barely half of the league-average mark of 23%. This year, though? Try tripling that number; nine caught stealings across 28 total attempts, good for a 32% rate.

Of course, that was just the beginning of what was a historic final week of the season for Torrens. When the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader went to extras, he got the call to pitch the top of the tenth, with the bullpen needing as much rest as possible before the playoffs. Although the Manfred runner came home to score on back-to-back flyouts, Luis made it through the rest of the inning without any further damage. He even hit 88.8 MPH on his final pitch to Kody Clemens, inducing an easy flyout. A middle infielder lobbing eephuses over the plate in a blowout, he most certainly was not.

Abraham Toro won it in the bottom of the inning with a sac fly, and for the first time in franchise history - and just the sixth time league-wide since 1968 - a primary position player (excepting always Shohei Ohtani) earned a pitching win. That alone was remarkable, but Luis’s day wasn’t over yet. Back behind the dish for the nightcap, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, and although his arm wasn’t tested, he didn’t let anything get by him with runners on while catching an erratic Justus Sheffield - and given the final score, that made a pretty big difference.

The storybook 24 hours continued in yesterday’s regular season finale. Starting at second base for the first time in the Majors, Torrens didn’t have many chances, but that didn’t stop him from making a sparkling play to take an infield hit away from Jeimer Candelario. Marvel once again at that arm!

Torrens has also been pretty hot at the plate since coming back, entering yesterday with a 139 wRC+ across September and October. His opposite-field swing’s been showing up, and he’s finally been punishing those high fastballs he feasted on last year. In the bottom of the frame, Mitch Haniger led off with a walk while Carlos Santana juuuust missed a two-run bomb to retake the lead. Luis fell behind 0-2, getting caught in between on a changeup for strike two. Tyler Alexander opted to throw a fastball in off the plate, but badly missed, and Torrens pounced.

I mean, come on. Pitching, catching, and playing second base in three games and two days? Hitting a home run just a day after notching a win on the mound? You couldn’t write this stuff if you tried. Oh, by the way, the last primary position player to do that who isn’t named Shohei Ohtani? Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx in 1945. Torrens notched another base hit in the eighth, making it four balls in play that Savant called “hard-hit”; three of those four were in triple digits. Small sample size galore, to be sure: he’s collected just 25 plate appearances since coming back up. You know what’s all small sample size, though? The postseason.

It’s no secret here that I’ve long been one of Luis Torrens’s biggest believers. I’ve written both of his 40 in 40s, spilled countless words defending him in the comments and on Twitter, and even got a chance to talk with him back in July, where he was kind, patient, and quick to point out how well Cal Raleigh had been playing. By all accounts, he’s beloved by his teammates and coaching staff - if Vitale had one word to describe him, he’s torn between “energetic” and “diligent”, also mentioning that he would jump at the chance to play the outfield if that’s what the team needed from him. That certainly sounds like someone who belongs on a playoff roster!

What the future holds for Luis is still pretty murky - out of minor league options and set to go to arbitration for the first time, there’s a chance he could be non-tendered. No matter what happens in the playoffs and beyond, though, he’s made his mark here, and won’t be forgotten any time soon. That’s all many of us want in our journey, and despite the odds, he did it. That alone is worthy of admiration.