Friday July 22, 2011

The text message received from Matt Torra Thursday morning was written with a sense of surprise.

"Who would have thought Bateman and I on the same team. The Durham Bulls," is what the text message said.

The Bateman in question is Joe Bateman, who has returned to Durham to join a Bulls' pitching staff that Torra is a member of.

"Two kids from the same high school team pitching on the same [minor league] team -- that's crazy," Pittsfield High baseball coach Bob Moynihan said. "That's just unbelievable."

Torra was traded to the Tampa Bay organization from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and was put into the starting rotation at Durham. He is still seeking his first win. Bateman, who spent the last two years with Durham, was released by Class AA Midland (Texas League) on Tuesday and signed with the Rays on Wednesday. Tampa Bay assigned him back in Durham.

"It was a complete surprise" to see Bateman in the Bulls' clubhouse in Rochester, N.Y., Torra recalled. "We hadn't touched base yet.

"I was starting so I came to the field later. I show up and he's in the locker room. It was pretty cool to see him and now to play with another Pittsfield guy, it doesn't happen too often."

It also doesn't happen too often where one Pittsfield guy gets to pitch when another started. That's what happened Wednesday night against the Red Wings.

It was Torra's third start for the Bulls and by all statistical measurements, his best. He went 51 3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, walking three and striking out three.

The last hit Torra gave up was a leadoff home run to Jason Kubel, who was in Rochester on a rehab assignment and is due to return to the Minnesota Twins this weekend.

Bateman had to come in to relieve Marquis Fleming, who only went one-third of an inning. Bateman put out the fire and went on to pitch 21 3 innings of shutout relief. He walked two and struck out one.

"We had a guy take his opt out, so we needed a reliever," said Torra. "I knew he was interested in coming back. It was cool to get him."

Bateman graduated from Pittsfield in 1998 and went on to play at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2002 June Amateur Draft by San Francisco. He spent six seasons in the Giants system, one year with Milwaukee and two with Tampa Bay. He started the season with Oakland's Triple A team in Sacramento before being sent down and then released.

"Very seldom do I get guys who are just from Massachusetts in general that are on my team," Torra said. "Now we have a couple. To have somebody who I went to [the same high school] and my brother [J.T.] went to high school with, it's cool to have a teammate. There's a little comfort level too, having someone around from home."

Bateman had been 2-1 with a 5.40 earned-run average in 26 games with Sacramento. He also appeared in four games for Midland, giving up three runs in nine innings.

But one of his best Triple A seasons came in 2010 with Durham. Bateman was 7-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He appeared in 54 games, finished 14 and pitched 76 innings. He struck out 66 and walked 25.

Torra is still looking for his first win since being acquired by the Tampa Bay organization.

Bateman is back working with a Tampa Bay coaching staff, led by manager Charlie Montoyo, that he is familiar with. It's also a staff that Torra is getting used to quickly.

"For me, things really started to come around good," Torra said. "I've been working with Neil Allen, the pitching coach. He's spent a lot of time with me in my last two bullpen sessions. I'm getting back on track mechanically. I felt real comfortable [Wednesday], especially in the later innings."

Torra made his third start coming off three days rest as he started for Durham Saturday night in Pawtucket. He said the short time in between starts helped.

"I think it was good versus my first two starts where I had 12 days and 10 days where I had long rest," he said. "You get a little rusty. I hadn't thrown much so I still felt strong. Things were working for me.

"My changeup was a great pitch for me. I threw it almost 30 times."