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Rangers fill catching void with Torrealba

Rangers fill catching void with Torrealba

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have addressed one of their biggest needs this offseason, signing catcher Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year, $6.25 million contract on Monday.

Torrealba, who has spent almost his entire 10-year Major League career in the National League West, comes to the Rangers with an excellent reputation for calling games and handling a pitching staff.

He spent last season with the Padres and 4 1/2 years prior to that with the Rockies. He was Colorado's starting catcher when the club went to the World Series in 2007 and again to the playoffs in '09.

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"We feel like we have accomplished our goal of acquiring a catcher who is a winner and has had success with quality young pitchers in San Diego and Colorado," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said.

"I feel like we've acquired a solid front-line catcher," manager Ron Washington said. "He certainly fills our needs. He's a strong defensive catcher. He doesn't throw as well as he has in the past, but he's good defensively and can certainly swing the bat."

Torrealba will receive $3 million in 2011 and $3.25 million in 2012 while replacing Bengie Molina as the Rangers' No. 1 catcher.

"I'm really excited about it," Torrealba said. "I was looking for a team that can compete and make it to the playoffs. I'm really excited with the young pitchers that they have here. I've been known for being able to call a game, and I feel like I can help this pitching staff. I try to take charge out there in the game."

Torrealba started 89 games for the Padres in 2010 and had a catcher's ERA of 3.14, the lowest in franchise history (minimum 81 games) and the lowest in the Majors since Paul LoDuca had a 3.14 ERA for the Dodgers in 2003.

At the plate, Torrealba hit .271 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 325 at-bats. He also had a .343 on-base percentage. He hit a career-high .291 with a .351 on-base percentage with the Rockies in 2009.

"The last couple of years, my hitting has been getting better," Torrealba said. "But I just want to be there behind the plate, controlling the game and building confidence from the pitcher to the catcher."

Torrealba has had some shoulder problems in the past that have affected his throwing. He missed over half of the 2006 season with a strained right shoulder and had surgery in September of that year. He was a free agent after the 2007 season and was close to signing with the Mets before they backed away over his concerns about his medical reports.

He threw out just four of 53 attempted basestealers with the Rockies in 2009 but improved to 13-for-51 this past season with the Padres.

"His shoulder isn't as strong, but he has great footwork and he gets rid of the ball quickly," Washington said. "I don't think anybody felt that people ran wild on the Padres this year."

Torrealba caught 92 games for the Padres last season, the second-most in his career. He was behind the plate for 112 games with the Rockies in 2007.

The Rangers are still looking for a second catcher to share time with Torrealba, and they have strong interest in re-signing Matt Treanor as a backup. Taylor Teagarden, who is currently playing in the Dominican Republic, is another possibility. Treanor has told the Rangers that he would like to return.

"We really appreciate what [Treanor] brought to the team, and we're definitely staying in touch with him," Levine said. "We're still in the market looking at the free agents out there got a guy who can complement Yorvit and provide competition."

But right now Torrealba has the responsibility of taking over a pitching staff that had a 3.93 ERA, fourth-lowest in the American League. Pitching is also a significant reason why the Rangers reached the World Series for the first time in club history.

"That's a big challenge for me," Torrealba said. "Obviously our goal is to get back to the World Series and win the World Series. Watching these guys on TV last season, it's going to be very exciting."

Torrealba was with the Giants from 2001-05. He spent the second half of the 2005 season with the Mariners and caught 41 games for them. That's been his only American League experience. He was traded to the Rockies in the offseason and spent four years in Colorado before signing with the Padres as a free agent last winter.

"Obviously I have a lot to learn being mostly in the National League West," Torrealba said. "I'm already looking at tape and look forward to talking to the pitching coach. I want to learn now. I don't want to wait for Spring Training so that by Opening Day I will already have that experience."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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