Aug. 17, 2013
Joe Torres warms up for the Somerset Patriots. / MIKE ASHMORE/FOR THE NJ PRESS MEDIA
BRIDGEWATER — Joe Torres knows what baseball fans think of him.
A quick Google search for his name reveals a 50-game suspension in 2012 after a positive test for amphetamines under baseball’s minor league drug program while he was a member of the Colorado Rockies organization.
It’s right there on the first page of search results. It is Torres’ scarlet letter. Scarlet letters, really. P-E-Ds. Performance-enhancing drugs. It’s an easy conclusion to come to.
It doesn’t matter that Torres, now a relief pitcher with the Somerset Patriots, says the suspension came after he did everything he could to go through the proper channels with Major League Baseball to get approved to take Adderall, which treats narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for personal use.
It doesn’t matter he had a prescription for it. It doesn’t even matter that it wasn’t steroids.
But Torres doesn’t want to be lumped in with Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun or any of the other countless players to have allegedly cheated the game.
“Obviously, I’ve never taken any kind of steroids or HGH or any of that kind of stuff, and I never will,” he said.
“For me, it was tough because I tried to do everything the right way by going through MLB and going through the appropriate avenues to take this medication that I need. It’s tough, because I look at these guys and I came up in a time period where guys were using all around me and I always looked at them like, ‘You’re crazy. Whatever, I’ll beat you still.’ I had that confidence in me to do that.
“And now to, in some eyes, know people may think that I’m lumped with that, it’s really tough for me.”
Taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2000 draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the now-30-year-old Bronx-born lefty was destined for big league stardom.
“I think at that age, you’re kind of green to everything,” Torres said. “You kind of believe it’s an, ‘I’m drafted, I’m in the big leagues,’ type thing. But obviously that’s the furthest from the truth.
“You have to put your work in, put your time in and you need to have some luck too. Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries that have set me back. But that’s part of the game, and that’s how things go.”
A 2003 shoulder injury and Tommy John surgery the following year nearly ended his career. He missed the better part of two seasons, and wasn’t the same pitcher when he came back. He went 1-10 with an 11.89 ERA between two different Angels affiliates in 2005 and 2-4 with an 8.14 ERA the next season.
Torres was tired of his arm locking up when he’d get back to the dugout and not being able to say anything because he was so desperate to keep pitching after two lost seasons.
“At that point, I was like, ‘I’m pretty much done. I can’t throw strikes. I don’t know where I’m going from here,’ ” he said. “But I was very fortunate that season to sign with the White Sox, and they kind of helped revive my career at that time.”
After learning a cutter from Winston-Salem pitching coach J.R. Perdew, Torres was able to turn around his career and appeared to be on track to finally get to the big leagues, advancing all the way to the highest level of the minors for the first time in 2011.
But then the suspension came.
So did a rough second stint with Triple-A Colorado Springs, thanks in large part to what Torres said was the “tough mental challenge” of trying to clear his name. After two years on the shelf and the two subsequent years of not being able to throw strikes, it took a suspension to find Torres looking for work for the first time in his 13-year pro career.
He latched on with the Atlantic League’s York Revolution, but was released despite posting a solid 2-2 record and 4.43 ERA in 38 relief appearances. Patriots manager Brett Jodie was quick to add him to the roster the first chance he got.
“He’s a guy that every time we saw him, the word around the dugout was, ‘This guy’s pretty good,’ ” Jodie said
“He’s got some good pitches that move around pretty well, and he can face both lefties and righties and be effective against both of them. When we saw the move was made over there, he was definitely a guy that we were targeting. We’re fortunate to have been able to acquire him.”
In his first two appearances for Somerset, Torres has allowed no runs and just one hit. Given a chance to make an impression on a new fanbase, that’s the impression he wants to make: Joe Torres, quality pitcher.
Not Joe Torres, suspended for 50 games.
“I feel like as long as somebody goes out and speaks with somebody, they would know that’s not me,” he said.
“But if they just look at a piece of paper and see this guy was suspended at one point, so we’re not going to let him go back into pro ball? I don’t know. I hope that’s not the case. I’m here to work hard, I’m here to play in the big leagues. I’d hate for that to be the reason for me not to have that opportunity right now.”