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Meet Luis Torrens, the Cubs’ surprising Opening Day roster addition

1 year agoAndy Martinez

Two things immediately piqued Luis Torrens’ curiosity when the Cubs reached out this winter.

“First of all, [they] were one of the most interested teams,” Torrens said. “Second, they were the team that intrigued me the most in terms of what they were building and what they want to be.”

Did a seemingly uphill roster battle — the Cubs had two veteran catchers already in the fold in Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart already — deter him?

“I always think I have a shot,” said the 26-year-old who has 251 big-league games under his belt. “In reality, something that I learned early in my career is to just compete against myself. My competition is me; try to be better every day. The people who are here, Yan and Tucker, they’re fixtures on the team, but honestly what I thought of was me in my opportunities.”

Torrens was a shock addition to the Cubs’ Opening Day, 26-man roster. The Venezuelan was signed to a minor league deal late in January and went under the radar in Spring Training. The catching position seemed locked in — Gomes and Barnhart were two defensive-minded backstops and known for their game calling. They can platoon, too, so a third catching option seemed like a long shot.

But Torrens posted a 1.023 OPS in spring and impressed in minor league games offensively, too. This while coming off a stellar winter league in his native Venezuela, where he slashed .387/.484/.600 with 3 home runs and 15 RBI in 91 plate appearances for the Navegantes del Magallanes

“The possibility, for me, was always there, since Day 1,” Torrens said. “If not, I wouldn’t have chosen to come here. I had my ups and downs, but my mentality was always positive. Honestly, I feel really good to be here with the team.”

The Cubs envision him in a role similar to what P.J. Higgins played last season — he can offer more depth to the 35-year-old Gomes and 32-year-old Barnhart, can pinch hit for them and he can play first base, third base and second base, if the team needs that.

“I think he’s looked great,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said earlier this week. “I think he’s an interesting guy and that’s why we’re keeping him. It’s hard to find catching. He’s only 26 years old.”

Torrens has played just once at Wrigley Field — in 2017 as a Padre, where he went 4-for-8 in a 3-game set, but his memory of the Friendly Confines is vivid. The Cubs held a team workout on Wednesday afternoon, and it was his first time back since that series.

“Wow, it was incredible,” Torrens said. “I haven’t returned, but I’ve always had good memories here. It was something that I really enjoyed and motivated me a lot.”

Like Gomes and Barnhart, Torrens takes pride in the pitcher-catcher relationship and the importance of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the demanding position. He hit the ground running in terms of building relationships with the Cubs’ pitching corps and leans on his veteran mates, too.

“My mentality and perspective is to learn as much as I can from them,” Torrens said. “We’re a team. We’re always communicating especially when it’s time to help the pitchers and doing a good job with them and always trying to be united because we’re a team and what we want is to win.”

It comes back to why he signed with the Cubs in the first place. They were interested in him — so much so that he made the team’s Opening Day roster. And, after playing for the Padres and Mariners, he had a taste of winning atmospheres and wants to take a bite of that one more time.

“The Cubs are a team that wants to compete,” Torrens said. “They want big things. I was in San Diego on a team that was fighting for playoff spots, Seattle that was also battling for playoffs. I thought the Cubs were a team that that was their goal and it interested me a lot.”

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