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Will Torres' arrival with PawSox reduce Betts' time in CF?

June 26, 2014

Andres Torres

PAWTUCKET — Even though several potential suitors were knocking on his door, Andres Torres was not going to sign with a major-league club until he felt fine physically.
“I wasn’t ready because I had the surgery (to repair a strained left Achilles’ tendon). It takes time. I just took my time and made sure that I was good to go,” said Torres on Thursday, his first day with the Pawtucket Red Sox. “I [heard] from a few teams, but I was just waiting for the right moment. Once I feel good, I just signed with Boston.”
Agreeing to terms with a 36-year-old outfielder who ended last season on the disabled list and underwent a significant procedure might seem like a gamble. Yet when you take into account the vast graveyard that Boston’s outfield has been this season, any warm body is worth taking a flyer on at this point.
There is another variable to consider now that Torres has joined the PawSox.
In the short term, are the Red Sox better off with Torres, a player who has been in decline since playing a pivotal role in San Francisco capturing the 2010 World Series, or 21-year-old rising star Mookie Betts, who made his first-ever professional start in right field Thursday? Both would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which wouldn’t present a problem since Boston is currently two under the limit.
From strictly a positional standpoint, the presence of both Torres and Betts in Triple A seems to present a bit of a logjam. Betts has appeared in center field in 15 of 22 games with Pawtucket. Such a heavy workload falls in line with the belief that the Red Sox were making a firm commitment to a youngster who prior to the tail end of his two-month stint with Double-A Portland had never logged a single inning in the outfield as a pro.
Just when it appeared Betts was getting comfortable and used to his new surroundings, along comes Torres, who has batted .232 with nine home runs in 994 at-bats since his stellar 2010 season with the Giants, one that featured 16 homers and 26 stolen bases.
To go with a player with a presumably skies-the-limit potential as opposed to a player who is seeking to get up to speed after a lengthy rehab, it begs the question what would happen if the Red Sox decide cut bait with Jackie Bradley Jr. and send him down.
Torres does have an opt-out date in July, so does he automatically vault ahead of Betts based on that important consideration?
Thursday marked Torres’ sixth game since signing a minor-league deal with Boston on June 11. His five-game stint with Single-A Lowell saw him hit .211 (5-for-19) with one home run and three RBI. He played center field in four of his five games with the Spinners.
“I need to see pitchers pitching and things like that, but I know I’ll be good to go,” Torres said. “I was hurting for three years. I was like, ‘Let me get this surgery done.’ I want to be healthy, be back. I feel I’m getting where I want to be. Playing hurt for those couple of years was no good. So now I feel good. I’ve been working really hard. I feel really good to be honest with you. It was the first time of my career that I took so much time without baseball stuff, [but] sometimes it’s good to get your head clear and things like that.”
PawSox manager Kevin Boles noted that Torres’ workload would be monitored closely. Before Thursday’s game against Norfolk, the hope was that Torres would be able to play all nine innings with a DH stint possibly on tap on Friday.
“We have the reports from Lowell and the ones from when he first signed with us. We’re just going to make sure we keep an eye on him because he had a significant injury last year,” Boles said. “He’s moving around well. He brings high energy in the clubhouse and the track record speaks for itself. We’re excited to have him here.”
On Betts seeing time in right field, Boles said, “He’s done some work out there over the last week. I don’t think you can go wrong with moving guys around at this point. With Torres coming here, obviously there was a chance (Betts would be on the move), but now that he’s here, we’ve been prepared for it.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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