With rookie Torres giving CPR, Giants again find heartbeat

August 30, 1993|By Scott Ostler | Scott Ostler,San Francisco Chronicle

Personally, I think the local TV guys calling yesterday's Giants-Marlins game, Barry Tompkins and Mike Krukow, got a little carried away.

They likened Giants hurler Salomon Torres to Sandy Koufax and then Vida Blue.

Come on, guys. This is the kid's first outing. He throws a nice seven innings and we all go nuts? Sandy Koufax and Vida Blue?

Let's get a grip, shall we? Let's keep our poise. I was thinking he reminds me of Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson.

And you certainly will not catch me mentioning Torres as a Cy Young candidate. Although he could get seven more starts. . .

Regardless, it is a very creative concept that Dusty Baker and Bob Quinn came up with: Keep your staff ace under wraps in the minors until Aug. 29.

What, you don't think Salomon is the Giants' ace? With John Burkett and Bill Swift hauling their pitching arms around in wheelbarrows, and the Giants' battle cry reduced to "Swifty and Burkey ain't very perky"?

Seeing a live pitching arm come out of the Giants' dugout right now is as startling as seeing a live snake pop out of the bat rack.

But what did you expect? These are the '93 Miracle Giants.

The Atlanta Braves won their game yesterday, of course, cutting their magic number to 35, with 31 games remaining on their schedule.

And the Braves are being soooo polite, so careful not to ruffle the Giants. A bunch of Eddie Haskells in flannel caps, the Braves are. When Steve Avery pitched a gem for the Braves on Saturday night, he refused to gloat or issue challenges to the Giants.

"I'd trade places with them in a heartbeat," Avery said, ultra-diplomatically. The only trouble was, nobody was sure at the time if the Giants had a heartbeat.

They had lost four in a row, the pitching staff had turned into Gopher Balls R Us, Will Clark was out, Darren Lewis was out, photos of the bats of Kirt Manwaring and Royce Clayton and Barry Bonds were being printed on the sides of milk cartons.

The game plan for yesterday was to have Robby Thompson hit four homers and pray for rain.

With the Braves' hot breath singeing the hairs on the backs of their necks, the Giants were featuring two guys who had never been in a big-league game -- center fielder Rikkert (The Dutch Treat) Faneyte and pitcher Koufax. I mean, Torres.

Looking at Torres and Faneyte, you can be pretty confident the Giants' farm system will not be investigated for steroid abuse. Faneyte and Torres could both fit into Rod Beck's uniform at the same time.

They both fit the current Giants' team look: lean and hungry.

Saturday the Giants announced they had traded for Twins pitcher Jim Deshaies. General manager Quinn commented: "We're not going to rest on our laurels on this one [trade]."

Good thing, because those are flimsy laurels to rest on. Deshaies has lost his last six starts and has given up 24 homers this year.

It was a nice move by Quinn, but it was obvious that the Giants needed more than a .500 journeyman. They needed magic.

They needed a miracle, a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. They needed Salomon Torres to be as good as a lot of local people were dreaming he was.

The Giants needed Torres to take the mound in the sweltering twilight in Miami and throw the game of his life.

It was obvious from the way Torres has dealt with the media since he came up last week that he is no ordinary rookie. Nervous? Shy? At impromptu news conferences, he did everything but recite poetry and serve sandwiches.

And when he threw on the sidelines a few days ago for Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole, Torres got a lot of Giants people quietly excited.

But until last night, nobody but Torres knew if it was all just a great act.

When he walked the Marlins' leadoff hitter and the TV cameras peered into the Giants dugout, you hoped Pole would remember the unwritten rule, "There's no crying in baseball."

Then the kid seems to say to himself, "Oh. So that's the big-league strike zone? OK, I think I got it."

He threw fastballs that took a six-inch hop and curveballs that rolled off a table. He worked the corners and struck out six and only walked one other batter, and did everything like a big-league star except chew tobacco and sweat, not being old enough to have acquired either of those habits.

He gave the Giants a heartbeat, which is a handy thing to have in a pennant race.

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