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Torres retires after career year

Torres retires after career year

MILWAUKEE -- Add "closer" to the Brewers' list of offseason needs.

Salomon Torres, who emerged in May as a steady replacement for the unsteady Eric Gagne and went on to lead the team in saves, appearances and relief innings, informed the Brewers on Tuesday that he intended to retire.

The story was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt. The Brewers subsequently made a formal announcement.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved who helped make this season a memorable one for me and my family, everyone from the fans to [Brewers owner] Mark Attanasio to [general manager] Doug Melvin, the Brewers staff and front office," Torres said in a statement. "Milwaukee is a wonderful city with great fans and people. I will always cherish the opportunity I had to play here. While I still have great passion and energy for the game of baseball, I feel that the time has come to redirect that passion and energy to my family and God."

Torres, who is devoutly religious, has three children with his wife, Belkis. The family lives near Pittsburgh, where Torres pitched from 2002-07 before a December 2007 trade to Milwaukee.

The 37-year-old right-hander went 7-5 with a 3.49 ERA and a career-high 28 saves in 2008 and was 27-for-32 in save opportunities after taking over for Gagne on May 24. Torres has made more appearances over the past five seasons -- 383 -- than any pitcher in Major League Baseball, a workload that may have contributed to a 12.46 ERA over his final 10 appearances. That stretch raised his ERA from 2.40 to 3.49.

The Brewers were facing a Saturday deadline to decide whether to exercise Torres' $3.75 million option for 2009 or pay him a $300,000 buyout. On Tuesday, after learning Torres' intentions, team officials were unsure whether they need to act on the option at all.

Hot Stove
"We don't have all of those answers yet," assistant general manager Gord Ash wrote in an e-mail. "We will look for guidance from the Commissioner's Office to ensure the proper procedures are followed."

If they do have to act, the Brewers are likely to pick up the option. But Melvin said that decision would have less to do with saving the $300,000 buyout and more with leaving an opening for Torres to change his mind.

"I told him that if he ever thinks about it, we would love to have him back," Melvin said. "He said he was pretty well set on it."

Melvin said he had a long telephone conversation with Torres on Tuesday. Melvin was surprised at the news, but not as shocked as he was last December when Torres first mentioned he was considering retirement. That was immediately after the Brewers had traded a pair of Minor Leaguers to get Torres out of a deteriorating relationship with the Pirates, and Torres quickly rescinded his retirement threat and prepared to join the Brewers.

Torres also retired after the 1997 season, which he split between Seattle and Montreal. He was out of baseball for three seasons, then pitched briefly in South Korea in 2001 and signed a free-agent contract with the Pirates in January 2002.

"I was more shocked last year when he said he was going to retire than I am this year," Melvin said. "Most players don't retire when they get a chance to earn the money, so I guess this shows you what kind of guy he is. He can legitimately say that it's not about the money."

Torres, who did not return a message seeking further comment on Tuesday afternoon, told the Journal-Sentinel that this time, his retirement was for real.

"It was a given [that the Brewers would exercise the option]," Torres told the newspaper. "It's a small sacrifice I'm making. I know I'm doing the right thing. It might be a surprise to a lot of people and some might not understand, especially from a money standpoint. That shows you how determined I am to lead my life in another way."

New Brewers pitching coach Bill Castro, who was Milwaukee's bullpen coach for the past 17 seasons, received a congratulatory call from Torres last week, but Torres made no mention of retirement. Castro said he did hear from several Brewers pitchers late in the 2008 season that Torres was mulling whether to hang up his cleats.

"He did it before, so I don't know if he will change his mind or not," Castro said. "Maybe with some time off he will think about it. But it does surprise me. He took over that closer's role and had his best year ever."

Even if he did not return as the team's closer, Torres would have served a prominent, late-inning bullpen role. His retirement creates yet another hole to fill on the Brewers' pitching staff, which may lose relievers Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse and starters CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, all of whom have filed for free agency. The Brewers have already extended an initial offer to Sabathia, who finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting on Tuesday despite making only 17 NL starts in 2008 after a midseason trade.

"We're going to have to retool the bullpen a little bit," Melvin said. "We have [David] Riske back, [Seth] McClung back, unless he goes into a starting role, and then [Carlos] Villanueva. We do have some holes to fill, but we had holes last year to fill, too."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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