RailRiders infielder Gleyber Torres glances at his bat during a game in Columbus last week. MILB Photo by David Monseur.

I love this photo, by the way. I love photos that tell the entire story, without words. And this one sort of does, doesn’t it? Because that bat is going to get Gleyber Torres where he wants to go. Sooner, maybe, than later. And as soon as it starts coming around, the heat is going to get turned up on Chase Headley or Chris Carter, or even the Yankees, a team in a pennant race in a league that has seen teams get a bigger boost recently from younger stars than splashy trade-deadline acquisitions. Is Torres the Yankees’ Carlos Correa? Their Nomar Mazara? Their Francisco Lindor? That bat will answer the question. If only he can look hard enough for the hits that are in there.

As I watched the RailRiders-Rochester game last night, I did so focusing solely on Torres. I don’t typically do that. But this seemed to be a good night to focus on the progress he has made. Last night’s was his 12th Triple-A game, which is half of what Correa got before the Astros called him up. There was a chance — although he fell one short — that he’d reach his 50th Triple-A plate appearance last night, too. Correa got 113 at Fresno in 2015. Is it unfair to compare the two in realistic terms? Sure is. They’re different players with teams in different situations. But Correa was 20 then, and Torres is 20 now. Most like them are in A-ball. Even if unfair, it’s intriguing to compare the special.

And of course, Torres had his best game in Triple-A by a mile-and-a-half last night. He went 3 for 3, drilled his first RailRiders homer, knocked in four runs and drew a walk. It turned out that, maybe, that game will wind up being a seminal one in Torres’ RailRiders run. A bit of luck for me.

So, here’s what I was working on: A pitch-by-pitch look at how a good veteran pitcher — right-hander Yohan Pino — attacked Torres. And how Rochester’s bullpen, which I have long thought to be the most aggressive in the IL when it comes to throwing fastballs, went after a young player dying to be challenged.

Here’s how it all went down:

AT-BAT NO. 1

Inning: 1
Pitcher: Pino (Fastball, Slider, Change, Curve)
Situation: 0 on, 2 out

The sequence:

Pitch number

Pitch type

Location

Call

Count

1

Fastball

Outside quarter

Called strike

0-1

2

Fastball

Inside quarter

Ball

1-1

3

Fastball

Inside quarter

Ball

2-1

4

Fastball

Middle away

Foul back

2-2

5

Fastball

Low away

Ball

3-2

6

Slider

Outside quarter

Ball

Walk

 

The approach: What struck me about the first at-bat is that Torres is 20, entered the game with a .194 batting average and three RBIs in his first 11 Triple-A games, and a decent veteran pitcher with big-league experience really didn’t appear too eager to mess around with him — even with Tyler Austin on deck.

Pino tried to get ahead by hitting the corners, missing far in on his two heaters inside. Torres fouled the one pitch that caught a lot of the plate straight back, and Pino went fastball-slider, both off the corner, trying to get him to bite on his next two offerings, leading to the walk.

This has been the area where Torres seemed to make the most strikes in his Triple-A time. He is recognizing the breaking ball off the corner well enough to lay it off, even in counts when he has to defend the plate.

AT-BAT NO. 2

Inning: 4
Pitcher: Pino
Situation: 0 on, 1 out

The sequence:

Pitch number

Pitch type

Location

Call

Count

1

Fastball

Middle away

Called strike

0-1

2

Fastball

Outside quarter

Called strike

0-2

3

Slider

Outside quarter

In play

Single to CF

 

The approach: Pino went right back to the fastball, and the first pitch was a drivable ball that caught plenty of the plate. Torres understandably went to the plate with some patience, then got a much better-located fastball on the corner at the knees to fall behind 0-2.

Ahead 0-2, Pino made a mistake. He threw rather inarguably the worst slider he offered all night, hanging it thigh high. Although the pitch was on the outside corner, Torres lined it back through the box. It hopped on the edge of the dirt past second and spun into center for a single.

Two at-bats, and Pino attacked Torres the same way. Tried to get ahead with good fastballs, then finish him with a breaker off the plate. Interestingly, that’s not necessarily how he was being consistently approached his first 11 games, when pitchers were spinning breaking balls over in fastball counts and trying to finishing him off with fastballs out of the zone, particularly up.

It should be noted that Triple-A teams approach scouting reports differently. Some have good reports that they follow. Some just want pitchers to do their thing. Regardless, Rochester clearly had a different plan than Columbus and Toledo did.

AT-BAT NO. 3

Inning: 6
Pitcher: Pino
Situation: 2 on, 1 out

The sequence: Well, this video best tells the story.

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The approach: Before we go any further, this much should be clear: Pino had been outstanding. He had fanned 7. Two batters before this homer, Tyler Wade lined a single to center. That’s the only other hit Pino had allowed. His biggest mistake of the game before this pitch was undoubtedly walking Dustin Fowler leading up to Torres’ at-bat. But all in all, Torres to this point had dominated the RailRiders.

But this much should also be clear: Torres clearly had just about enough of falling behind in the count by watching fastballs go by.

Pino got ahead with fastballs the first two times up, so Torres went to the plate looking for a fastball to drive on the first pitch. He got it. And he drove it, a line drive bullet that didn’t stop carrying until it went over the wall in left-center. It was a three-run homer, and the RailRiders had the lead and their first runs in, literally, three days.

AT-BAT NO. 4

Inning: 7
Pitcher: D.J. Baxendale
Situation: 2 out, Runners on 1st and 3rd

The sequence:

Pitch number

Pitch type

Location

Call

Count

1

Fastball

Middle inside

In play

Single to LF

 

The approach: There really wasn’t a different approach here. Baxendale, more of a control guy who has an average fastball and used his curve and slider to keep previous hitters off-balance, tried like Pino did to get ahead of Torres with has fastball. He just badly missed his spot.

Catcher John Ryan Murphy, our old RailRiders pal, set up his mitt over the outside corner, but Baxendale’s pitch leaked back across the plate and Torres just ripped it on a line over the shortstop’s head into left for an RBI single.

So, what was different with Torres in his 12th game than in his first?

Well, he’s starting to get prepared for any pitch in any count, and he’s picking up breaking balls a little bit better, as we saw in the first two at-bats. But, in game 12, he appeared he had a much better plan in place when he went to the plate than he had in the beginning, when he appeared to just be feeling every at-bat out. Rochester consistently tried to get ahead with fastballs, and he made Pino and Baxendale pay when they missed their spots. Torres got aggressive early in the count, because he recognized the Red Wings were being aggressive with him. He didn’t swing at a bad pitch all night, and that’s kind of the book on Torres. He’s got an advanced understanding of the strike zone, and really good patience, for someone who is extremely young for the league.

The next step will come when he learns to drive the breaking ball when its location is missed, especially early in the count.