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Name: Matt Torra
31st overall, 2005
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Weight: 225 lbs
History: Matt Torra was the
first pitcher claimed in the 2005 draft's supplemental
round. Five appearances into his professional
career, however, he tore the labrum of his throwing
shoulder, which sidelined him for the next year.
Many pitchers do not even return from such an injury,
but Torra put together seven outstanding, albeit
truncated, starts for South Bend upon his return.
"The Diamondbacks had a lot of great people behind me,"
Torra told FutureBacks. "They kept pushing me and they stuck by me even
when I had some tough times through it. So you've just got to be confident
that it's going to work out."
Torra's miraculous results at the end of the 2006 season
would not translate into success at the beginning of 2007. Torra went 1-4
with an 11.57 ERA and .396 BAA in April. By the end of May, he was 1-6
with a 9.87 ERA. Although Torra's shoulder felt pretty healthy, it's
important to remember that he had only pitched 35 professional innings before
facing some advanced hitters in a tough league for pitchers.
"Getting through that first half, as bad as it was, was
really beneficial for me," confirmed Torra.
The first-rounder rebounded with a 10-3 second half,
posting a 4.05 ERA and 91 strikeouts to just 19 walks. From August on, he
went 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA.
Torra's second half improvement culminated in an
eight-inning, eight-strikeout playoff appearance that
swept the favored Modesto Nuts from the playoffs. He allowed five hits and a
walk, with only one of his four runs allowed being earned.
"All the talk in the league was that Modesto had the
best 1-2 punch with [Brandon Hynick and Alan Johnson],"
Torra recalled. "You know, I really wanted
to beat Hynick, and Ambriz pitched great in the first
game. I just wanted to roll with that, and [the
offense] really picked me up big with the homer by Cyle Hankerd in the eighth inning."
Hynick was named the fourth best prospect in the Colorodo
Rockies organization in the
Baseball Prospects Guide. Hankerd and Torra ranked 6th and 18th,
Statistics Courtesy of
The Baseball Cube
Makeup: John Hester, one of three backstops that
caught Torra in Visalia, explained that Torra's
improvement last season didn't come through sharper
stuff as much as an altered pitching philosophy.
"He was trying to throw a lot of fastballs at the beginning
of the year," Hester began. "He realized that he needs to mix in his
change and his curveball, in even counts or when he’s behind in the count to
keep hitters honest. A lot of times hitters cheat, always anticipating the
fastball and getting it. Once he almost pitched backwards at times, he kept
hitters off balance. He obviously did better and finished strong the second half
of the year."
Torra has shown not only a resiliency in coming back
from a difficult injury, but the ability to make
adjustments within a season. His mental makeup
combines with his plus stuff to justify his early draft
selection and thrust him into top prospect status.
Fastball, Two-seam Fastball, Curveball, and Changeup
Prior to the labrum surgery, Torra was primarily a power
pitcher, dominating batters with a mid-90s fastball and
power curve. He explained how his repertoire has
changed since the injury.
"My velocity's been down a couple of miles (per hour), but
I'm pretty confident that it'll come back this year," Torra assured us.
"My curveball's the same thing with my velocity; now that my shoulder's a lot
stronger, I feel it's going to really come back to where it was before."
Torra has also developed a sinker that has become a
standard tool for every Diamondbacks pitching prospect since Brandon Webb had
his breakout season in 2005. He threw a changeup before the injury, but he
had to rely on it more with his primary offerings not as sharp as usual.
"My changeup has really improved dramatically from before
the surgery," he said. "I really learned to pitch with it very well."
Clone: Ben Sheets
Prediction: Torra is poised to have a breakout
season with the Mobile BayBears. A simple continuation of his late 2007
performance would be great, but in moving from a hitter's league to a pitcher's
league with better all-around stuff, Torra could be flat-out dominant.
"I feel that I'm a lot more prepared this year," Torra told
us when comparing this spring to one year ago. "My shoulder does feel a
lot better. I have a lot more rotation, I feel stronger, and my mechanics
are better than last spring training, so my expectations are pretty high."
ETA: There's no reason for the organization to rush
Torra with the major league rotation as stacked as it is, but if he has the kind
of season that everyone is envisioning, it's reasonable to expect Torra to make
a few spot starts in 2009 and seize a full time rotation spot in 2010.
Our full audio interview with Matt Torra is available for premium
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