Capps takes over Bucs' closer role, Torres moves to setup
PITTSBURGH -- Salomon Torres' latest blown save cost him his job as the Pittsburgh Pirates' closer, with right-hander Matt Capps taking over the role Friday and Torres again becoming a setup reliever.
Manager Jim Tracy made the move after Torres couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning of a 4-2, 11-inning loss to the San Diego Padres on Thursday night -- the third time Torres has given away a multirun lead in the ninth this season. Torres converted 12 of 16 save opportunities.
"If I was 14- or 15-of-16, we wouldn't be having this conversation," said Torres, a setup man to Mike Gonzalez last year before becoming the closer for the final six weeks of the season. "The bottom line is I didn't do my job. I feel like I could have done better. It didn't happen for me."
Torres became a closer relatively late in his career, at age 35, mostly off his late-season performance of last season -- he converted 12 of his final 13 save chances. Gonzalez was 24-for-24 as the closer last season, but was sidelined from mid-August on with an elbow injury and was later dealt to Atlanta.
The right-handed Torres converted his first four save chances this season, struggled during a stretch in which he blew three saves in five opportunities, then went 6-for-6 before his blown save Thursday.
"We're going to be proactive with this, we're going to do it now and we're not going to wait," manager Jim Tracy said. "The schedule and standings don't allow you to drag your feet for too long a time. We're going to take a shot and see where that takes us."
Capps, 23, was primarily a closer in the minors before settling into a setup role with Pittsburgh two seasons ago. He went into Friday night's game against Los Angeles with a 2-2 record, a 3.07 ERA, 24 strikeouts and six walks in 29 1/3 innings. He was 0-for-1 in save situations.
"He has the mentality to be a closer," Tracy said. "If you're going to beat Matt Capps, you have to do it with the bat because rarely do bases on balls enter into the equation."
A season ago, Capps walked only 12 in 80 2/3 innings. Torres had nine walks in 24 innings this season.
"The bottom line is, whether you're going in the first, fifth or ninth, you've got to get people out without them putting anybody across," Capps said. "I've got to do the same thing I've been doing, keep pounding the strike zone and see what happens."
The Pirates have had problems all season getting a lead to Capps in the eighth inning and Torres in the ninth, with Jonah Bayliss, John Grabow, John Wasdin and Marty McLeary all pitching erratically in middle-innings roles.
Torres' strength is his durability -- he led the majors with 94 appearances last season -- and Tracy plans to use him to pitch more than one inning at times, and sometimes on consecutive days.
"His ability to bounce back is stronger than where Matty would be," Tracy said. "Right now we do not and have not had anyone step forward to take that seventh inning and get you to your setup man and closer."
Left-hander Damaso Marte (0-0, 1.00 ERA in 24 games), the Pirates' most dependable middle innings reliever, was unavailable for Friday night's game because of tightness in his left biceps.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press