Mota, Torres seeking vindication
Brewers relievers trying to move past 2007 struggles
PHOENIX -- The road to redemption starts near the intersection of 51st Ave. and Indian School Rd. these days.It's the Spring Training home of the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park, and the place where relievers Salomon Torres and Guillermo Mota find themselves trying to find themselves. The 2007 season was one to forget for both Dominican relievers. They are hoping this year will be one to remember -- for good reasons. So are the Brewers. The club's bullpen lost closer Francisco Cordero and relievers Scott Linebrink and Ray King to free agency after last season. "Last year was not a good year for me," Mota said. "Things didn't work for me and didn't work the way I wanted. That's baseball. Sometimes you gave good years, sometimes bad. I'm doing what I can to have a good year this year so you can see who the real Guillermo Mota is." The Mota known by Mets fans was a flop. Last season, he was suspended for the first 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and he struggled mightily upon his return. With the Mets, he went 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 52 games. Mota did his best to act like he could not hear the fans' frustration directed toward him, and he says he did not pay attention to it as difficult as it may have been.
"I don't look at it as a bad experience. It was good one," said Mota, who scattered three hits across five scoreless Cactus League appearances entering Friday's game against the Padres. "It motivated me to do things better. You do good, they applaud. You don't, they let you know. They are not my family. They want the team to do good. Every player goes through that sometime.""Bounce back" and Mota is a recurring theme. The pitcher interrupted a Spanish-only interview after struggling to articulate his thoughts with the English phrase, "bounce back." Brewers manager Ned Yost said he looks for Mota "to bounce back big time." "He's going to have a great year," he said. "[Mota and Torres] are relaxed and on the attack. They are comfortable and pitching well."
Torres, 36, already looks like he fits in. He was slowed because of a sore arm early in Spring Training, but he is working his way back into the fold and is scheduled, along with fellow Brewers relievers Derrick Turnbow and Eric Gagne to pitch in a game on Friday in Minor League camp. The Brewers have been sending relievers to work in Minor League games because they are trying to use the big league games to sort out a competitive race for the starting rotation.For Torres, it's already a better situation than last season in Pittsburgh, a year full of injuries and a highly publicized dispute with management. Torres argued he signed for lower-than-market value with the Pirates in return for a promise by the club to rent his baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. He says the club backed out. Torres eventually leased the facility to the Texas Rangers. The veteran chooses not to dwell on the past, but if he did he would have some stories to tell. The Pirates saga is just the latest chapter in a long line of events that shaped his career. Torres signed with San Francisco as a teenager and made his big league debut with the Giants in 1993. He was shelled by the Dodgers on the last day of the season that year to cost San Francisco a playoff spot and any chance of making a permanent home in the Bay Area. Three years later, he retired from the Montreal Expos because he did not like how he was being pitched. You can blame immaturity for his early exit. Torres took his lack of playing time as a personal attack when it was nothing more than a personnel decision, the same type of decision that is made every day across the Major and Minor Leagues. He later served as a coach for the Expos summer league team in the Dominican Republic for a few years until he signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates in 2002 and made his big league return later that season. By 2006, he was the Pirates' closer. By the end of 2007, he wanted a trade out of Pittsburgh. The man who admits he didn't know anything about the business of baseball when he was a young man was furious because the sport had stung him again, this time as a full-grown man. He thought he knew better. Yet Torres refuses to let the sport make him a bitter man. He chooses to go forward instead of looking back. "I'm eager to show to myself that I still have it," Torres said. "I can go out there and get in some games. I feel like I can throw a lot of games because I feel healthy. I feel great." He and Mota are at the right intersection.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.