Howard Herman: Torra gets a second chance

Sunday July 3, 2011

In sports, you don't always get a second chance. But that's exactly what Pittsfield's Matt Torra is getting.

Torra was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization to the Tampa Bay Rays organization for cash considerations on Friday.

He went from being a regular starter with the Diamondbacks' Triple-A team in Reno to likely moving into the starting rotation for the Rays' Triple A team in Durham.

One note for Matt about pitching in Durham: If Crash Davis is your catcher, DON'T shake him off. Otherwise, he'll tell the hitter what you're throwing and any ball going that far should have a flight attendant on it. (Watch the movie "Bull Durham" if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Seriously, this is an opportunity for Torra to have his dream of making a big league club come true.

For every Adrian Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg (before he was injured) or Derek Jeter, there are countless Andrew Millers, Tim Wakefields and Ryan Vogelsongs out there earning big league paychecks. The latter three all had second chances at a major league career. Vogelsong's return to prominence is the stuff of legend.

He was a fifth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1998 and became one of the Giants' top prospects. He was part of a trade with Pittsburgh in 2001 that sent Jason Schmidt to the Giants. But in five years with the Pirates, Vogelsong basically couldn't get out of his own way.

Five bad seasons and Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and Vogelsong was out of the bigs by 2006.

He went overseas, pitching for the Hanshin Tigers (2007-08) and Orix Buffaloes (2009) in the Japanese professional league. He spent 2010 with Philadelphia and the L.A. Angels, and re-signed with the Giants this year.

All Vogelsong has done is go 6-1 with a 2.09 earned-run average. He has started 12 games and has moved to, along with Tim Lincecum, the top of the Giants' rotation. That's why, while the Giants still don't hit well, they are competing for the NL West title.

If you are a Red Sox fan, you don't need to be given the whole story about Wakefield. Suffice it to say that the one-time first baseman got a second chance to become a pitcher, and then the Sox gave him another chance after his knuckleball deserted him while with the Pirates.

Which brings us back to Torra.

"Hopefully, I can go and pitch good enough to impress somebody," he said, "and make something happen."

Making something happen is something Torra had been trying to accomplish since being drafted by Arizona as a first-round sandwich pick in 2005. The setback for the torn labrum and the surgery didn't help.

"It always is" frustrating when other pitchers got called up in 2011, Torra said. "I didn't help my cause as much as I would have liked to this year. All we can do is keep working on getting better and getting to where we want to be."

Maybe, if Torra pitches well for the Bulls, Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker might just pull the trigger and put the former PHS and UMass standout on Tampa Bay's 40-man roster.

For all Torra has endured, it would be a much-deserved second chance.

To reach Howard Herman:,
(413) 496-6253.


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