Ronald Torreyes was in uniform for each Yankees game in 2016, but his role was far from predictable. He started, came off the bench, pinch ran, pinch hit, and played three infield positions.
Torreyes was 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, and was able to do everything Joe Girardi, then the Yankees manager, asked him to do. Torreyes was a prototypical bench player.
“He’s a ballplayer,” Girardi said that summer on the cable show he hosted on the YES Network. “I mean that’s what he is.”
Now, Girardi could use Torreyes to fill out his first bench as Phillies manager. The Phillies signed Torreyes on Tuesday to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, where he will compete with a cast of others for the final two spots on the team’s bench. Major-league rosters are expanding to 26 players this season, allowing teams to carry five bench players and eight relievers.
Outfielders Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn enter camp with bench spots seemingly locked up, as does catcher Andrew Knapp. The Phillies also signed catcher Christian Bethancourt on Tuesday to a minor-league deal, and Deivy Grullon will be in camp for the backup role behind J.T. Realmuto, but Knapp remains the favorite for the job.
Torreyes, 27, spent most of last season with Minnesota’s triple-A affiliate, hitting .256 with a .289 on-base percentage in 79 games. He played three seasons for the Yankees, two of which were under Girardi, and hit .281 with a .308 on-base percentage.
He’ll compete for a bench role in Clearwater, Fla. with two-time All-Star Josh Harrison and Phil Gosselin, who led the Phillies last season in pinch hits. Both signed minor-league deals with spring-training invites earlier this offseason, as did outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook, who could force their way onto the roster with strong springs.
The race for the final spot seems fairly open as the team is nearly a month away from opening camp. But one of the contenders is already familiar with the manager, which could play to his advantage.
“I think you’re going to have different teams that approach [the 26th man] very differently,” general manager Matt Klentak said at the winter meetings. “You may have some rebuilding clubs that are going to use that as an opportunity to give an unproven player more playing time.