TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -Catcher Yorvit Torrealba doesn't have a lot of pop at the plate and not much of an arm, throwing out just 13 of 74 baserunners last season.
Yet, the Colorado Rockies couldn't have been happier when his deal to bolt for the New York Mets a month after his spectacular performance in the postseason fell apart.
The Rockies credit Torrealba with helping develop their young pitching staff, especially Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and Manny Corpas, the first wave of players to graduate from their fledging Latin American operation.
Torrealba's calling cards are his glove work and his handling of pitchers.
``Does he throw as good as some people? No. Does he hit for average as good as some catchers? No. Does he have the power of some catchers? No,'' pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. ``But he does enough of those things that he goes well beyond in his relationship with his pitchers.''
After his clutch performance in the postseason in which he hit .313 with runners in scoring position, knocked in eight runs and had four multihit games, Torrealba appeared set to become New York's No. 1 catcher when he and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement in November on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.
But that deal fell through and Torrealba, who still hasn't fully recovered from a right shoulder injury in 2006, re-signed with Colorado for $7.25 million over two years.
Then, he caught his breath.
After playing a career-high 105 games behind the plate and starting all 11 games in the playoffs and World Series, Torrealba decided to skip winter ball for the first time in his career.
``I was thinking I'd play like 15-20 games in December, but I decided not to. I was definitely tired. I needed rest,'' he said.
Both Torrealba and the Rockies are hoping that break will help his right shoulder.
Torrealba was proud to show off his bulging biceps when he arrived in Colorado two years ago. After his trade from Seattle, he bulked up with the help of a personal trainer, but the added muscle and reduced mobility resulted in a strained throwing shoulder that required two months of rest and rehab at the start of the 2006 season. It adversely affected him and the Rockies' plans behind the plate all year.
And it was the primary reason he threw out just 17.6 percent of baserunners last season.
He's sworn off the weights altogether except for those little pastel-colored weights that you see at the gym all the time. Those three-pound weights are the only iron-pumping he does to go with his biking and running regimen.
``Last year, even if it was a really good year, it was kind of a tough year on my shoulder,'' Torrealba said. ``It was frustrating. You can see by the percentage that I threw out. But it's definitely feeling better. I think the rest during the winter helped me a lot. I've been doing a lot of exercises with my shoulder, trying to get it strong like it was before. I mean, it's coming along really well.''
Yet, Torrealba acknowledged his shoulder has a long way to go before it's back to his pre-injury form.
``No, no, no, no, no. I'm not that close to where I was before,'' he said. ``I still feel like I don't have the zip to throw. But the good thing about it, I think it's way better from last year. It's pain-free. Last year there was a couple of days I felt a little bit of pain.
``But this year, so far, so good. I've been throwing now for a month and a-half. It's been great so far.''
Torrealba threw out just two of his last 34 baserunners last season as his first 100-game major league season began to take its toll on the 29-year-old veteran of seven seasons.
However, he finished with a .991 fielding percentage, making just seven errors in 742 chances.
``He has the trust of his pitchers,'' Apodaca said. ``He's got a great imagination. He knows when to explore different areas of the plate, when to be powerful, when to finesse. They have no fear of bouncing the ball because he's outstanding as far as blocking the pitches. And he's prepared. He knows the opposition and more important, he knows his own pitcher.
``He knows what he should ask for and what he shouldn't ask for. That's learning your team, your staff, against this type of hitter. So, it goes well beyond just the physical talents.''
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