- Associated Press
Friday, February 18, 2011

SURPRISE, ARIZ. (AP) - Yorvit Torrealba was signed by the Texas Rangers this winter to be their starting catcher. That was the same plan the New York Mets had for him before failing to finalize a $14.4 million agreement 3 1/2 years ago.

With Torrealba in camp with the AL champion Rangers, arbitrator Shyam Das ruled Thursday that the Mets had the right not to complete their three-year agreement with Torrealba in November 2007.

“I’m not ready to make a comment on that,” Torrealba said Friday. “(My agent) told me what’s going on. I know I lost the case, but I’m not 100 percent ready to say what happened and what’s going on. When I find out more of what happened I’ll have no problem talking about it.”

The agreement signed by the Mets and Torrealba’s representative said the deal was subject to a physical that was satisfactory to the Mets. The team concluded it had concerns about his throwing shoulder, which caused him to miss three months of the 2006 season.

Torrealba then re-signed with the Colorado Rockies, getting a $7.25 million, two-year deal. The players’ association filed a grievance against the Mets the following April.

After the Rockies, Torrealba played in San Diego for $1.25 million last season before signing a $6.25 million, two-year deal with the Rangers to be their starting catcher.

Texas manager Ron Washington has already made it clear that the plan is for Torrealba to be the starter. Matt Treanor, who shared catching duties with Bengie Molina the second half of the season, was re-signed this offseason and the Rangers also acquired catcher-first baseman Mike Napoli.

Torrealba has been primarily a backup catcher in 669 major league games for San Francisco (2001-05), Seattle (2005), Colorado (2006-09) and the Padres.

“That was really hard for me the last few years. It’s hard because you’ve got to try to know your pitchers but I only could give my advice on the bench,” Torrealba said. “If you’re behind the plate you have a different feel for what’s working. … This year, being the guy, I can focus from the get-go.”

Torrealba hit .271 with seven homers and 37 RBI in 95 games with San Diego last season. He started 89 games, and the Padres were 53-36 in those games with a 3.14 ERA, the lowest to a catcher in the majors since the Los Angeles Dodgers had a 2.73 ERA with Paul Lo Duca behind the plate in 2003.

The only time he has appeared in more games than last season was 113 in 2007, when he helped the Rockies reach the World Series. He then became a free agent and reached his deal with the Mets before instead re-signing with Colorado.

At Rangers camp, Torrealba is catching two or three pitchers a day and plans to work with the entire staff. He talks to pitchers after workouts to see what their preferences are, and has studied most of the staff on film.

“Knowing you’re going to be the guy gives me more time to get to know them,” he said. “It’s hard for any backup catcher because, like last year with San Diego, I had a really good idea of what they should do but if you’re not playing, they can be like ‘OK, OK’ or they might listen and then not do it. This makes my job easier and it makes their job easier.”

NOTES: AL MVP Josh Hamilton and newly acquired 3B Adrian Beltre were both in camp Friday, a day before their reporting date. With Beltre at 3B after being guaranteed $80 million over the next five seasons, the Rangers plan to use Michael Young as their primary DH while he also plays some at every infield position. Beltre described himself as sad when he heard Young had asked for a trade. Beltre said the Rangers will be better with Young and “hopefully everything works out and we can stay together.” … Hamilton, who was hospitalized for nearly a week last month with pneumonia, said he is “feeling good, feeling strong.” He said he was there Friday to take some swings and get reunited with his teammates.

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