Liotta: Minor league journeyman Torres a true find for Giants

No matter how this season turns out for the Giants, my favorite story will be the emergence of Andres Torres. From nowhere. From forgotten.

When Torres homered Tuesday night to pull the Giants out of a slide that had seen them lose four out of five, it was simply the latest in the most improbable season-long stretch of clutch hitting and clutch plays. He’d already earned my vote as the team’s Most Valuable Player this season.

This is the kind of story that just doesn’t happen. Not for a guy who, in 2009, was 31 years old, who had changed teams five teams, been released outright and had all of a .210 lifetime batting average and a grand total of 54 big league hits, when he packed up his glove to join the Giants.

This is a guy who had plenty of reasons to give up on baseball, and no right to be dreaming about being a regular in a Giants uniform.

Torres was an aging former prospect simply looking for a job, having played 488 games in the minor leagues without seeing the light of a major-league clubhouse.

He’d been released outright by the Detroit Tigers in 2004, and had wandered rather aimlessly through four organizations (Tigers, White Sox, Rangers, Cubs and the Tigers again).

Torres had been drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 draft by the Tigers out of Miami-Dade Community College, where he impressed scouts with his speed and defense. He’d been more of a track star growing up in Puerto Rico and didn’t start playing baseball seriously until the year before he was drafted.

So after hitting with more power at AAA in 2007, and adding a solid 2008, he could have hoped to be a AAA roster filler when his path crossed with the Giants. Maybe a fifth outfielder. Anything more was a pipe dream.

The emergence of Torres may be little more explainable after hearing the story that he’d been diagnosed with ADHD in 2002, but did not start taking medication to treat it until 2007, coinciding with his improved play.

And while it looks great now how Torres has blossomed into a center fielder who would look awfully nice in the leadoff spot for the next couple of years, we have to remember he only got his chance to play regularly when Mark DeRosa got hurt. After 10 games this season, Torres had appeared in just six games, starting twice, and  did not have a hit in his first eight at-bats.

What were the prospects of Andres Torres coming into the 2010 season? Poor enough that he is earning $26,000 above the Major League minimum salary. Now, he has my vote for the best player to wear a Giants uniform in 2010.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

 

Filling the void

 

Andres Torres has blossomed and settled into the role of the Giants’ starting center fielder and leadoff man.

5 Teams Torres has been with

257 Major league at-bats Torres had before joining Giants

.210 Torres’ career big league average before signing on with Giants

2002 Year Torres was diagnosed with ADHD

1998 Year Torres was drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of Miami-Dade Community College

$426,000 Torres’ 2010 salary ($26,000 over the major league minimum)

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