Commentary

Torrealba spent offseason studying staff

Catcher's primary goal is gaining the confidence, comfort of Rangers pitchers

Updated: February 24, 2011, 11:10 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba is a big believer in emotion.

"It's a huge part of the game," Torrealba said. "Why play if it's not fun? I know that some teams see me pumping my fist and they might be thinking, 'You're going to do that stuff in the first inning?' But that's who I am. I get excited."

Manager Ron Washington loves Torrealba's energy and passion.

"He's a chatter box," Washington said. "He isn't afraid to say what he thinks and keep pitchers as focused as he can."

[+] EnlargeYorvit Torrealba
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelYorvit Torrealba asked the Rangers to prepare film on their pitchers and AL West hitters when he signed with the club.
Former Rockies teammate Ubaldo Jimenez knows all about it. Torrealba caught him many times while both were with Colorado and has nothing but praise for him.

"He's a chess master," said Jimenez, a pitcher Torrealba believes will win 20 games in a season soon. "He prides himself on knowing everything about the hitter when he's calling a game. And I like that he's a motivator. There will be games where it feels like you are not awake. He will come out to the mound and has no problem saying, 'Let's go, let's go. You are better than this.'"

Rangers pitchers are just now getting a taste of that.

"I'm working with different pitchers every day so I can see all of them," Torrealba said. "I've had a chance to sit down and talk for a while with some of them, too. I want to know what pitches they want in certain situations. That doesn't mean I'll call those pitches, but I like to know to get an idea."

When Torrealba agreed to his two-year, $6.25 million contract this offseason, he asked the Rangers to prepare film for him of the entire pitching staff and the American League West hitters.

"In the offseason, I would work out in the morning, and then after lunch sit down in my theater room in my home and watch tape," Torrealba said.

He viewed nearly all of the Rangers in major league camp, including Cliff Lee, who was still a possibility for the rotation when Torrealba was signed.

"I also watched the tape of the playoff and the way they were acting," Torrealba said. "They went out there with confidence. They executed their pitches, and the glove didn't move. That's impressive."

Torrealba's job is to get them prepared to do it all again. The film sessions and time during bullpen sessions at spring training are just the start.

"I have to build that trust with them," Torrealba said. "I want to make sure they build that confidence where they don't have to think that much and they throw what I put down. If it doesn't work, they can blame me. I want to make it comfortable so they can execute their pitches."

Torrealba is following in the mold of Bengie Molina, who joined the Rangers in June last year and quickly became someone who helped navigate the staff through pressure situations down the stretch. Torrealba has experience in crunch time, too.

"One of the many things we liked about him was that he has some great performances in 2009 for the Rockies as they were heading to the playoffs," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He helped the pitching staff and came up with some big hits."

Torrealba hit .341 in August and .313 in September and helped his pitchers to some solid performances as Colorado recovered from a 19-28 start to make the playoffs.

But Torrealba's offensive numbers aren't his top priority. He has focused on his defense, too, working with the Rangers' catching instructors on blocking balls and making accurate throws to second. Torrealba said he wasn't happy with his throwing in 2007, when arm troubles bothered him. But he has made steady progress since then and feels his arm is strong.

"We have plenty of offense here," Torrealba said. "Obviously, that's not my No. 1 role. I want to help out on offense, don't get me wrong. But I want to catch a winner, help my pitching staff."

So Torrealba continues to make that his first order of business this spring. He's talked at length with C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, two guys he called the leaders of the rotation. He has made it a point to catch some of the younger pitchers and will do more of that in the coming weeks. He was impressed by Derek Holland's command and Tommy Hunter's aggressiveness and the raw skills of Pedro Strop. Torrealba watched as hitters couldn't seem to get around very well on Neftali Feliz's fastball and how his changeup is becoming a weapon, too. And he's glad he doesn't have to face Brandon Webb, who he thinks can be a valuable asset when he's healthy.

"There are a lot of good arms here," Torrealba said. "A lot of teams can't say that. Last year was an important experience for some of them. My job is to do what I can to get the best out of them, and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Troy Renck of The Denver Post contributed to this report.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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