SAN FRANCISCO -- Andres Torres regards the ballpark as a classroom where his education isn't just continuing, it's accelerating. It's essential to remember that Torres, 32, didn't begin playing baseball with any semblance of purpose until he entered Miami-Dade Community College, where a Yankees scout gave him a business card and seeded his Major League dreams. So Torres feels compelled to keep learning lessons about the game that others might take for granted. As any diligent student would, Torres takes notes. About three weeks ago, he began logging daily entries in a journal -- notes to himself that help him remember words of advice he received, or something he gained through an on-field experience. Maybe he'll scribble something about using his hands properly in his swing, or how the timing of his swing felt when he lifted his front leg.
"I just try to put little things I do every day and feel good about, or if I'm not doing something right," Torres said of his diamond diary. At the current rate, Torres might have a best-seller in the works. After beginning the season as an extra outfielder, Torres has left the bench and climbed to the top of the Giants' batting order. A recent stretch in which Torres hit .351 (13-for-37) helped make him the most logical choice to replace Aaron Rowand in the leadoff spot when manager Bruce Bochy tweaked the lineup on Sunday to stimulate the offense. The move didn't work immediately. Torres went 0-for-3 and the Giants mustered three hits in the Giants' 3-0 Interleague loss to Oakland, which completed a three-game sweep for the A's. That sent the Giants reeling into Tuesday night's series opener against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park. But Torres tried his best to capitalize on the lone opportunity he received in that A's game, stealing second base after drawing a fourth-inning leadoff walk. That captures what Torres has brought to the Giants since he joined them last year: Give him the slightest edge, and he'll pour his energy into maximizing it. "I always say, I'm ready no matter what," said Torres, who is batting .282 overall with a .383 on-base percentage, a .466 slugging percentage and six steals in eight attempts. "Even if I'm not playing, I have to be ready, because you never know." Torres was among a glut of outfielders competing in Spring Training for a spot on the Opening Day roster. But his switch-hitting ability, sprinter's speed -- he ran the 100-meter dash in 10.37 seconds in high school -- and comfort with each outfield position virtually guaranteed him a job. "He was on this club, no question about it," Bochy said recently. When Rowand went to the 15-day disabled list, after Los Angeles' Vicente Padilla beaned him with a pitch on April 16, Torres and Eugenio Velez initially shared the center field vacancy. Torres soon emerged superior to Velez, especially upon showing that he could hit right-handed pitching. Last year, Torres hit .338 right-handed and .210 left-handed. So far this year, he actually has reversed his fortunes, batting .238 right-handed and .311 from the left side. Torres has credited hitting coach Hensley Meulens and teammate Pablo Sandoval for helping him improve his left-handed stroke. He even received a tip during Spring Training from Giants legend Willie McCovey, who suggested that he should hold his bat more upright and wiggle it less upon waiting for the pitch. Ever humble and hungry for knowledge, Torres would accept wisdom from any well-meaning baseball source. And then he'd jot down a few notes in his journal. "I learned the game late," he reminded. "I try to talk to everybody -- [Mark] DeRosa, Edgar [Renteria], every player and coach." Torres might not be entrenched in his current role. DeRosa likely will reclaim left field once he recovers from his injured left wrist. Assuming Rowand remains in center field, that could leave Torres and Nate Schierholtz vying for playing time in right. Whatever happens, Torres will be eager to contribute, even if he returns to the bench. "I just try to get better every day," Torres said. If you don't believe him, it's in writing.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.