Andres Torres excited to be back 'home' with Giants
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO — There are professional athletes who respond to trades by declaring that “it's a business,” and there are those who outwardly display their disappointment, even bitterness.
Then there is Andres Torres' assessment of the 2011 deal that shipped him to New York for Angel Pagan, who would play center field on a championship club as Torres struggled for the lowly Mets.
“It was a great trade,” Torres said excitedly. “Pagan is a great player and a great guy. San Francisco won the World Series again and (Pagan) was great.”
That last word was used often by Torres on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale Stadium for the start of the 2013 season. In a crowded clubhouse filled with returning champions and young minor leaguers soaking in the big league life, nobody had a bigger smile than Torres, who circled the room with hugs, handshakes and sometimes both.
“I'm so happy to be back,” Torres said. “This is a dream come true.”
His lifelong dream was first realized in 2010, when Torres, a journeyman outfielder, started 138 games, hit 16 homers and scored 84 runs for a championship club. Torres was popular in the clubhouse and a darling of the fan base, but his career crashed back to earth in 2011. Torres hit .221 with just four homers in the failed quest for a repeat title. His OPS dropped from .823 to .643, and in December he was traded to the Mets, along with right-hander Ramon Ramirez.
A calf injury landed Torres on the disabled list early last season and he never recovered, hitting .230 with just three homers and 13 stolen bases. Free agency can be a barren wasteland for veteran outfielders coming off back-to-back poor seasons, but Torres is a versatile outfielder capable of playing all three positions, and when healthy, he remains a burner on the basepaths.
Torres said the Mets tried to bring him back and the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers expressed interest. But throughout the process, he was eyeing only one destination.
“This is home for me,” he said. “San Francisco gave me an opportunity when I was in the minors to make the team, and gave me a job. I won the World Series here. I really appreciated those things.
“You have to do what's best for your family, but I really wanted to be here.”
Torres placed multiple phone calls to manager Bruce Bochy, and when his agent began to talk terms with other teams, Torres insisted that he didn't care about money. He wanted to go where he felt comfortable.
“His message was really (about) how badly he wanted to come back,” Bochy said of the phone calls. “He was a Giant at heart. I explained the situation and that I may not have a starting role here, but that wasn't important to him as much as the fact that he wanted to be back in the city with this team that he loved.
“He wanted to help out in any way.”
Bochy has already mapped out Torres' path to production and envisions him in a platoon with Gregor Blanco, another speedy, defensive-minded veteran who broke through when the Giants gave him a chance. Masked by his overall struggles last season was the fact that Torres, a switch-hitter, had a .382 on-base percentage when hitting from the right side.
“We're glad to have him,” Bochy said. “It gives us another gifted outfielder that can play all three positions.”
Torres worked all offseason on swing adjustments from the left side and he'll test them out this spring by representing Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. In an odd twist, Torres will share Puerto Rico's outfield with Pagan, the player he was traded for, and Carlos Beltran, a former Met and Giant.
While it would seem important for Torres to stay in camp and try to win a job, Bochy said he encouraged Torres to represent his country.
“We know Andres,” Bochy said. “It might be a little bit different if we didn't know him and have a whole lot of info about him, but we do.”
Those who weren't around Torres during his first stint with the team are already getting a blast of his unique style.
“He definitely has a lot of energy,” said Hunter Pence. “When you're around him, it's very uplifting.”
Pence was an uplifting force for the Giants last postseason, and Torres saw it firsthand. He was in the stands for a National League Championship Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals and said he was a bundle of nerves while watching the World Series.
“The torture,” he said, referring to a running theme of recent seasons, “I felt that.”
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
Many of the team's position players reported to camp on Tuesday, well ahead of Friday's deadline for position players. Among those in camp early were Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Pence, Blanco, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
Left-hander Javier Lopez said he could pull out of the WBC if he doesn't feel up to speed in early bullpen sessions. Lopez is on the provisional roster for Puerto Rico and participated in 2009.
“This is the priority for me, the Giants,” Lopez said. “I'm not going to rush into the WBC if I don't feel I'm ready.”
Blanco has been approached multiple times by the Venezuelan team but doesn't anticipate playing.
Bochy said he wants to get a long look at prospects outfielder Gary Brown and reliever Heath Hembree. The manager also took a moment to take a good-natured shot at talkative reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who will play for Team USA in the WBC. "We encouraged Affeldt to go," Bochy joked. "We needed a two-week break from him."
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