Torres ended 2006 and began 2007 as the Pirates closer, but lost the job last June after suffering his fourth blown save in 16 chances. He then missed parts of two months with inflammation of his right elbow and finished the year 2-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 56 games. Melvin noted that Torres issued only 17 walks in 52 2/3 innings.Before last season, Torres had been a workhorse for the Pirates, averaging 85 appearances from 2004-06, including a career-high 94 games in '06. His unconventional career includes stops in San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal and Pittsburgh, with a five-year hiatus from 1997-2001, when Torres coached in the Expos system. The bullpen has been an area of focus for Melvin since the team lost right-handers Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink to free agency. Before acquiring Torres, Melvin picked up Guillermo Mota from the Mets in a trade and David Riske and Randy Choate via free agency. Potential holdovers from 2007 include Turnbow, the likely closer, steady left-hander Brian Shouse, right-hander Seth McClung, who got a vote of confidence from manager Ned Yost during the Winter Meetings, and righty Matt Wise, who slumped at the end of the season but could be a relatively affordable option should the Brewers decide to tender him a contract next week. Left-hander Mitch Stetter will get a chance as well.
The Brewers also have an excess of starting pitching and could move those who don't win a spot in the rotation to the bullpen. Barring trades, those options include arbitration-eligibles Dave Bush, Chris Capuano and Claudio Vargas, or youngsters Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva."We're compiling some guys with experience," Melvin said. "And [bullpen coach] Billy Castro is pretty good at resurrecting guys."
Melvin parted with a couple of future bullpen arms for one in the present. Salas, 26, is considered a potential future closer and split last season between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville, posting a combined 2.77 ERA and 17 saves in 51 games. The Brewers plucked him off waivers from the Orioles last year.Roberts is 23 and went 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Class A Brevard County in 2007, then pitched 15 games in Hawaii Winter Baseball and posted a 4.82 ERA. He was the Brewers' fifth-round Draft pick in 2005. Torres is signed through 2008 under a two-year, $6.5 million contract that pays $3.2 million this season and has a $3.75 club option for 2009. The short-term nature of the Brewers' commitment was also appealing in making the trade. "That fits with what we're doing," said Melvin, who also is only committed to Mota for one year. "Riske [signed] for three years, but we're not tied to some of these guys for longer than we want to be. The alternative is giving a bunch of guys three-year deals."
The Brewers showed some interest in free agent Eric Gagne, another reliever coming off a poor season. But Gagne almost certainly will get a multiyear contract, and it appears the Brewers may be finished stockpiling relievers.
"Unless we carry 15 pitchers," Melvin said. "But you're never going to say that you're done. You're always open to trades that you can get involved in or other things you can do."
Torres feuded with the Pirates last season, alleging that former GM Dave Littlefield "tricked" him into signing a below-market contract with a promise to rent space at one of his youth baseball facilities in the Dominican Republic. Then, just this week, new Pirates GM Neal Huntington publicly challenged Torres to improve his conditioning over the offseason.In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Torres countered that he has been working out at PNC Park three or four times a week and said he has lost eight to 10 pounds since the end of the season. Torres was not available Friday to comment, a Brewers spokesperson said. "If the Pirates are talking about last year, they're right," Torres told the newspaper on Wednesday. "I didn't do my best, and I got hurt playing catch up. That's not true now. "I'm going to have a great year," he added, "and I'm getting ready for it."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.