Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tigers' Leyland dazzled by Rays' Torres

DETROIT — After watching Rays LHP Alex Torres' terrific two-inning relief appearance Tuesday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he did a little "research" on Wednesday.

Leyland talked to a good buddy of his, likely Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer, to find out the skinny on the 25-year-old, who got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning Tuesday, including striking out 3B Miguel Cabrera and 1B Prince Fielder.

"That guy was absolutely lights out," Leyland said of Torres. "From what I understand, the reason he hasn't been here … is 'cause his control hadn't been good. He's been a wild guy, good stuff but wild. (Tuesday night), he looked like Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford all put together. He was very impressive."

Cabrera, the reigning MVP, said he knew Torres from their time as teammates for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Cabrera recounted the sequence when Torres fell behind 3-and-0 on three straight fastballs but then threw three straight strikes — fastball, changeup, fastball — to get him swinging. It was the first time a lefty has struck out Cabrera after falling behind 3-and-0 since the Angels' Joe Saunders on Aug. 26, 2009.

"He has great stuff," Cabrera said.

Manager Joe Maddon said it could be an "optimal" growth moment for Torres, who was unavailable Wednesday and likely today but should be ready to serve in long relief again Friday. Torres had pitched four scoreless innings in each of his previous two appearances.

"That's the kind of thing that can really catapult a guy into feeling, 'I belong here, I can do this,' " pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "And all of a sudden, he becomes a monster. And hopefully, that'll be the case."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price, on the disabled list with a left triceps strain, will throw his first bullpen session Friday at the Trop but is still expected to be out until at least late June. "If it turned into early July, it wouldn't be a big shocker," Hickey said.

Though Price is progressing, Hickey said he will have to do at least three bullpens, probably a simulated game and a couple of minor-league rehab appearances before coming back. "I'd like to see him (have) 2-3 (big-league starts) prior to the All-Star break," Hickey said. "That'd be nice."

STARRY NIGHT: Though 3B Evan Longoria is having a strong season, he may have a tough time making the All-Star team considering he's fourth in fan voting (454,047), more than a million behind first-place Cabrera, with the Orioles' Manny Machado and Rangers' Adrian Beltre in between.

But Leyland, who will manage the AL team, is a big fan of Longoria, a three-time All-Star.

"Longoria is a great player, no question about that," Leyland said. "I've said this for years, he has the one thing that always impressed me about certain players, is they know how to slow the game down. He knows how to slow the game down. He's a terrific player." Leyland then smiled, and said: "But my third baseman is going to start the All-Star Game."

BACK IT UP: LF Kelly Johnson was a late scratch from Wednesday's game due to back tightness, but he said he was available to pinch-hit and should be back in the lineup today.

OF Sam Fuld, who filled in for Johnson in left, said his teammate did him a favor by giving him a heads-up before batting practice that he might have to play. Fuld didn't know officially until around 5:30 p.m. but was well-prepared.

The stadium staff, however, was late to find out, as Fuld was introduced as scheduled leadoff hitter Matt Joyce in the first inning; Joyce had been moved to third.

"That made me angry," Fuld joked. "I don't ever want to be compared to him."

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