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Torres rekindles career with combined shutout

ATLANTA (AP) -- Salomon Torres was thrilled to be back in the
majors for the first time since 1997 -- until he found out he'd be
pitching against Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves.

Not to worry.

In a storyline akin to "The Natural,'' Torres made a remarkable return to the big leagues, coming within two outs of a shutout as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Braves 3-0 Tuesday night.

"Not in my wildest dreams did I think I could do something like this,'' said Torres, who allowed only four hits before Mike Williams got a game-ending double play.

The 30-year-old Torres, once a top prospect for the San Francisco Giants, retired after the '97 season and spent the next three years as a $1,200-a month pitching coach for Montreal's affiliate in his native Dominican Republic.

He sat out most of last season, too, beginning his comeback in
earnest when he signed with the Pirates in January.

After honing his game in Triple-A, Torres was called up by the Pirates on Monday.

"When they told me I was coming up, I was like, 'Yeah!' When
they told me I was pitching tonight, I was like, 'Yeah!' When they
told me I was pitching against Tom Glavine ...'' Torres stopped abruptly, wiping the smile from his face.

"I was like 'OK, he's one of the best in the world. I guess I'll have to bring my best game just to give us a chance to win.'''

That he did. Torres mixed fastballs with curves, sliders with changeups. He threw from all sorts of angles -- overhand, three-quarters, sidearm.

"Underarm,'' he added jokingly. "I have to do whatever I can to get batters out.''

Aramis Ramirez and Craig Wilson homered for the Pirates, who snapped Atlanta's four-game winning streak and ended their own four-game skid.

But this night belonged to Torres (1-0), who dominated the team
with baseball's best record.

The only bright spot for the Braves: Not many fans witnessed their performance. The crowd of 18,931 was the smallest in Turner Field history.

Torres pitched the final game of the 1993 season for the Giants, who were fighting the Braves for the NL West title. Only 21, he couldn't get through the fourth inning and the Giants were routed by the Los Angeles Dodgers 12-1, giving Atlanta its third straight division title.

"I forgot about that the next day,'' Torres said. "No big deal.''

But his career veered off track after that promising rookie season. He spent parts of five years in the majors, also pitching for Seattle and Montreal.

Entering Tuesday's game, Torres' career record was 11-25 with a 5.71 ERA. After struggling with the Expos, he decided it was time to head home to the Dominican.

"I was mad,'' Torres said. "They sent me down and I told my wife, 'Pack it up. Let's go home.'''

Now, he's back. The right-hander pitched in the majors for the first time since July 20, 1997. His last win came on Sept. 25, 1996, when he pitched for Seattle.

Torres faced only one hitter over the minimum before pinch-hitter Marcus Giles singled with one out in the ninth.

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon immediately came out of the
dugout and signaled for Williams, who gave up single before getting
Darren Bragg to hit into a double play for his 39th save.

Torres, who allowed only four hits, bit his glove in frustration as he headed for the dugout.

"I was mad at myself for making a mistake,'' he said. "I should have thrown him something different.''

Torres faced a Braves lineup missing slugger Gary Sheffield, who's recovering from a sprained thumb.

The only serious threat against Torres came in the second, when
Andruw Jones led off with a double and Matt Franco singled off the leg of second-base umpire Gary Cederstrom.

After Mark DeRosa flied out, Vinny Castilla ended the inning with a 6-4-3 double play -- one of four turned by Pittsburgh. DeRosa hit into the other two.

Torres struck out five and threw 103 pitches.

"We basically left our bats at home today,'' Atlanta's Chipper Jones said. "It's a pretty pathetic offensive performance when you're No. 3 hitter doesn't even get four at-bats.''

Torres was called up after starting 24 games for Pittsburgh's Triple-A team in Nashville, going 8-5 with a 3.83 ERA.

"I don't think anybody expected him to throw as well as he did tonight,'' McClendon said. "I'm sure he was disappointed that he didn't have an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues before now, but he showed a lot of perseverance.''

For good measure, Torres singled in the eighth, his first big league hit since June 5, 1994, at Mile High Stadium in Colorado.

"Everything I'm doing is working,''' Torres said to Franco while standing on first base.

Glavine (16-9) has lost three straight starts for the first time this season -- despite giving up just seven earned runs in 20 innings during that span.

Told that he lost to a former pitching coach, Glavine quipped, "He must have given himself some good tips.''

Glavine gave up seven hits and walked a season-high five.

Game notes
The Braves' previous low at Turner Field was 20,162 against
Montreal on May 29. ... The Pirates won for only the third time in
17 games at Turner Field since the start of the '98 season.