ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Torres has become the next great thing in the Rays' bullpen.
"He's turning into some kind of relief pitcher right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Since Torres' last call-up from Triple-A Durham on June 1, he leads all American League relievers (minimum of 15 innings pitched) with a 0.42 ERA and .085 opposing average. During that span, he also ranks second among all Major League relievers with 30 strikeouts, trailing only Kansas City's Greg Holland (34).
When Maddon was asked if Torres was evolving into a J.P. Howell-type role, he answered: "He already has, honestly."
Maddon then elaborated.
"He gets out righties and lefties, you don't care how hot the situation is, you feel very comfortable bringing him into that moment," Maddon said. "We've brought him in with bases loaded against Detroit, he got through that, we brought him in another time with the bases loaded, and it's the thick part of the batting order. He's kind of been like [Howell] already."
Maddon cited the left-hander's calmness as a contributing factor for his success this season.
"He believes he belongs here," Maddon said. "And he's pitching like that. … You feel good about him in that moment."
Jose Lobaton has caught Torres a lot, whether at Triple-A Durham or with the Rays, and he noted the biggest reason for his success is his ability to throw strikes.
"That's the best thing I've seen from him," Lobaton said. "He's throwing strikes. He's throwing his changeup for strikes and throwing it to lefties. He's not scared to throw the fastball. A good thing he is doing right now is he's mixing his pitches.
"He gets ahead in the count. He's got a great changeup that he can throw at any time in the count. You got a guy like that, you feel like you can have him throw any pitch, any time. He's working the way you want to see a guy on the mound. He's ready all the time. You can see it on his face."
MLB announces Rays' 'Tribute for Heroes' honoree
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brad Snyder of Bethesda, Md., is the Rays' People Magazine "Tribute for Heroes" winner.
Thirty winners will be recognized at the 2013 All-Star Game on FOX and in a special pregame ceremony July 16th at Citi Field. One winner will appear in the July 22 issue of People Magazine.
The "Tribute for Heroes" campaign is a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members and which builds upon both organizations' commitment to honoring the country's heroes.
All of the winners, each representing one of the 30 MLB Clubs, will be included in All-Star Week festivities and will attend and be honored during the pregame ceremony leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.
Fans nationwide cast their votes at TributeForHeroes.com to select 30 winners from a pool of 90 finalists.
Inspiring stories include heroes from multiple branches of the Armed Forces ranging in ages from 26 to 92 years old (World War II through Afghanistan).
Snyder was in a combat zone in Kandahar in 2011 when an IED explosion injured two of his team members as they were walking through an uncleared field. While rushing to provide medical assistance, he stepped on a second IED. The explosion burned his face and blinded him, but he did not let that defeat him.
After the accident, Snyder rediscovered his life-long love of swimming. Less than a year later, he was selected for the USA Paralympics swim team for the 2012 London Games and won two golds, a silver and set a number of American records and a Paralympics record.
Snyder advocates for wounded veterans and the Paralympics movement. He also supports charities that helped him through his rehabilitation. Synder has used his gifts as an inspirational athlete to serve as an incredible role model for thousands of veterans and disabled Americans who face similar challenges.
All stories can be found at TributeForHeroes.com. Along with MLB and People, a guest panel including Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and Gen. John M. "Jack" Keane (retired), alongside MLB players Justin Verlander of the Tigers, Nick Swisher of the Indians, Barry Zito of the Giants, Jonny Gomes of the Red Sox, Brad Ziegler of the Diamondbacks, Chase Headley of the Padres and Craig Stammen of the Nationals assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists, who were then voted on by fans to select the 30 winners.
The "Tribute For Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service.
Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with "Centers of Excellence" at university hospitals throughout the country.
• Since being moved back into the leadoff spot on July 1 at Houston, Desmond Jennings leads the Major Leagues with 12 runs scored and is hitting .389 with a home run, six RBIs and three steals.
• Entering Wednesday night's game against the Twins, the Rays had their third best record in club history through 91 games. The only two times they were better (2008, 2010) they won the American League East, finishing with 97 wins and 96 wins, respectively.
• The eighth annual Rays on the Runway event will take place Thursday at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. Members of the Rays, their wives and girlfriends will join "dream children" in walking the runway to make dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses. More than a dozen Rays are confirmed to attend along with their wives or girlfriends. For more information on sponsorships or tickets, visit childrensdreamfund.org or contact Cynthia Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Fernando Rodney has converted his last 12 save opportunities after beginning the season 9-for-14 through May 25. He has issued just one walk in his last nine innings pitched after walking 23 in 29 1/3 innings before that. In only his second season as Rays closer, he is already is two saves shy of tying Danys Baez (71) for second place on the Rays' all-time saves list. Roberto Hernandez leads with 101.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.