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How Will Torres be Used Next Year?

-P- The Post-Gazette sees a consequence of the Mike Gonzalez trade that I hadn't even considered:

Torres will be a full-time closer for the first time, so there are sure to be challenges.

One will be a lesser workload.

For some, that would be great news. Not Torres. He made 94 appearances last season, most in Major League Baseball, and has a long history of pitching better the more often he takes the mound. But that no longer will be the case, as manager Jim Tracy tends to call on his closers only in save situations.

Torres' durability is his greatest asset, and Tracy needs to find ways to take advantage of it - whether that means bringing Torres into close games that the Pirates aren't winning, or bringing him in for the eighth inning in save situations.

Tracy may deserve to be defended here, however. The Post-Gazette may be relying on something Tracy told them about the way he likes to use closers, but when he had Eric Gagne with the Dodgers, he wasn't shy about using Gagne in non-save situations. Tracy used Gagne pretty routinely in tie games and even in situations in which the Dodgers were behind. He also routinely used Gagne in multi-inning stretches. (Here are Gagne's game logs.) Gagne pitched 82.3 innings in each of his three years as Dodgers closer, while Torres usually pitches a little over 90 innings a year. So unless Tracy has changed since then, I don't think Torres' workload will be limited that much unless he gets hurt.

It is true that Gagne racked up saves like crazy with the Dodgers, partly because he was extremely good, but also because the Dodger teams he closed for were all teams that scored and allowed very few runs. Gagne therefore had more opportunities to enter close, low-scoring games than would the closers for most teams. So maybe some of Gagne's high innings totals can be attributed to the low-scoring games his team played. However, the fact that Tracy used Gagne for exactly the same number of innings three years in a row seems to indicate that Tracy knew what he was doing. Hopefully, he'll use Torres the same way. If he doesn't, it'd be a huge waste - Torres' durability is at least as much of an asset as the quality of his pitching.