Mike Torrez: Early Eighties Mets Pitcher (1983-1984)
Michael Augustine Torrez was born on August 28th 1946 in Topeka Kansas. The tall six foot five right hander was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 at age 17.
Torrez went 10-10 at AAA Tulsa & would make his MLB debut as a September call up for the 1967 World Champion Cardinals.
On September 10th, he pitched to one batter & struck him out in a 8-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The next year he began the year with the Cardinals & went 2-1 but was sent down in late May. He went 8-2 at AAA Tulsa in the Pacific Coast League as the Cards won another pennant & lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
In 1969 the Cards fell to fourth place & Torrez filled in on a staff of Bob Gibson (20-13) Steve Carlton (17-11) & Nelson Briles (15-13) going 10-4 with the best winning percentage on the staff. He fell to 8-10 in 1970 & in June of 1971 was traded to the Montreal Expos for Bob Reynolds. Torrez would spend four years in Montreal, having two 15 win seasons.
In 1972 he Balor Moore & Bill Stoneman made a good rotation, but the team had no offense. Torrez won 16 games (9th most wins in the NL) going 16-12 with a 3.33 ERA. He struck out 112 batters, but also walked 103 in 243 innings of work. Torrez would be among the league leaders in walks allowed through most of his career.
He would also give up lots of hits & runs as well, although he was a work horse pitcher. Ten times in his career he pitched over 200 innings. He also walked 100 batters or more six times (leading the league three times) & gave up over 100 runs seven times (leading the league twice). He was known as a nibbler, not having the best stuff but a guy who would nibble away at the corners of the strike zone.
In 1974 he won 15 games, tying Steve Rogers for the Expos team lead & went on a seven year stretch where he won double figures. That year Torrez married a girl from Montreal & was hoping to stay put to raise a family. But it was not to be, manager Gene Mauch was tired of his walking too many batters & a trade was made.
In 1975 he went to the Baltimore Orioles in a big traded that sent he & Ken Singleton to the Orioles for Dave McNally, Rich Coggins & a Bill Kirkpatrick.
The deal was terrible for Montreal, as McNally retired in May, Coggins got very sick & was released & Kirkpatrick never pitched for the team. The trade was great for Baltimore, Single became an All Star outfielder & Torrez a top hurler.
He won twenty games (20-9) fourth most wins in the AL, posting a 3.06 ERA in 270 innings (9th in the AL) , while leading the league with 133 walks. He was part of another talented staff that included Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar & Ross Grimsley, but the O's finished second to the Boston Red Sox ending their six year run as AL East champs.
That off season Torrez was traded to the Oakland A's who had just won five straight AL West Division titles & three World Series (1972-1974). It was a monster trade at the time, sending Reggie Jackson & Ken Holtzman to the Orioles for Torrez & Don Baylor.
Torrez had another good year there, going 16-12 with a 2.50 ERA. He tossed four shut outs as well (4th in the AL). The only other starting pitcher left from the A's Championship years was Vida Blue who went 18-13.
After starting out 1977 3-1 in April he was traded to the AL New York team for Doc Ellis, Marty Perez & Larry Murray. There he went 14-12 helping the club to a world championship. It was his only post season appearance of his long career. In the ALCS he took a loss to the Kansas City Royals in Game #3 at Kansas City. In the World Series he was the winning pitcher in Game #3 at Los Angeles & the winner in Game #6 at New York.
That winter he signed on as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox. He would spend seven seasons in Boston winning 16 games in each of his first two seasons. His 16 wins were 8th best in the league in 1979. He would finish second on the Red Sox staff to Dennis Ekersley both seasons. Also on the staff were Luis Tiant & Bill Lee, making up one of the league's best.
But it was a heartbreaking season in 1978 for the Sox, They fell apart, losing 17 games in the standings after holding a big lead in the AL East. They rebounded to come back & force a one game playoff after being down 3 1/2 games with 14 to go.
Torrez capped off the season, with one of the biggest blows against the Red Sox in modern history. It was Torrez who gave up the 7th inning, three HR, deep to left field over the Green Monster, to weak hitting short stop; Bucky Dent. Boston had been up 2-0 but were now behind & never came back. The Sox lost a heart breaker finished second & then third the next year.
In 1979 Torrez led the league once again in walks & earned runs. In 1980 he fell to 9-16 the worst record he had since 1973. In the strike shortened 1981 season he rebounded to a 10-3 record posting a 3.68 ERA. After going 9-9 in 1982 he was traded to the New York Mets for a player to be named later.
Torrez joined the 83' Mets staff that included the return of Mets legend Tom Seaver, Craig Swan & youngsters Walt Terrell & Ed Lynch. Torrez made his Mets debut on April 9th, in the third game of the season, at Shea Stadium. Torrez gave up five runs in six innings, taking a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He lost to the Cardinals in St. Louis in his second start, beginning the year at 0-2.
Torrez then made three relief appearances before getting a start on April 27th in Cincinnati. He went eight innings allowing just one run on three hits, earning his first win 2-1 over the Reds. In his next start he went nine innings, but without run support took a 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros. Torrez was 2-6 by the end of May with an ERA over five. He had a good stretch at the end of June winning three straight games, including a three hit one run victory against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium on June 26th.
Torrez was a streaky pitcher that season, after three straight wins he lost four straight dropped six of seven. But at the end of August, Torrez won another three straight, beating the San Francisco Giants twice & the Los Angeles Dodgers. On August 31st, he pitched a complete game one run victory beating the Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela.
In September he went 1-3 to finish the year at 10-17, the most losses in the National League. He also topped the league in earned runs allowed (108) & walks (113). He pitched 22 innings struck out 94 & posted a 4.37 ERA.
Torrez began the year with Mets in 1984 but this was a completely different team, the pitching staff now had Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling & Sid Fernandez on board. Torrez actually got the nod to make the Opening Day start that season, taking a loss at Cincinnati. He was shelled for six runs on six hits, exiting in the second inning.
Torrez pitched into the six inning allowing no runs in his next start, but got no decision in the Mets 3-1 win. In that game, Torrez hit the Houston Astros young All Star short stop; Dicke Thon in the face with a fastball, fracturing his orbital bone almost ending his career. Thon recovered but was never the same player.
On April 21st Torrez made the start but was gone after allowing three runs in the 1st inning. On May 13th the Dodgers tagged him for four runs at Dodger Stadium, as he exited in the 5th inning taking a 5-3 loss. On June 3d, he pitched 8 innings & although he gave up ten hits, only allowed one run to The St. Louis Cardinals. But that day Dave LaPoint was better shutting out the Mets & Torrez 1-0.
On June 9th, Torrez got his only win of the year, beating the Expos in Montreal. By the end of June he 1-5 with a 6.30 ERA when the Mets gave him his release.
Torrez signed with the Oakland Athletics, pitched in two games ending his career at age 38. In his long 18 year career he was 185-160 (150th all time in wins / 119th in losses).
He had 1404 strike outs, 1371 walks (23rd all time), 1340 earned runs (69th all time most) allowed in 3042 innings (126th all time) over 494 games. He threw 15 shut outs, 117 complete games as well as 103 wild pitches in 458 starts (76th all time) & posted a 3.96 ERA.
Retirement: In 2011 he was named General Manager of the Newark Bears as they began play in the Canadian American Association, but was fired that summer.