TAMPA, Fla. -- No, Spencer Torkelson’s first start at third base this Spring Training did not include a can of corn. That would’ve been too easy.
Instead, his first inning on Friday in the Tigers' 1-1 draw with the Yankees actually put some heat into the hot corner. For someone who was looking to put the focus back on the field after his kitchen adventure last week, it was a welcome transition, for him and for his teammates.
“That guy is out there every single day putting his nose to the grindstone and working hard,” said starter Matthew Boyd, who benefited from a pair of Torkelson snags in the first inning. “It’s impressive. You can see the fruits of it. He’s doing whatever he can to make this team better and make himself a better player.”
Torkelson’s reactions at third were tested from the second batter, when Aaron Judge sent a 110 mph line drive screaming at him. The Tigers’ top prospect got his glove up in plenty of time.
“It’s fun to get him some action,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s also nice to get it in an environment where he recognizes Aaron Judge hitting a bullet right at him.”
Three batters later, with runners on first and second, Torkelson dove to his left to stop a Luke Voit ground ball toward the hole. His throw across the infield bounced in the dirt, but first baseman Harold Castro dug it out to end the inning.
Boyd met him after the inning and told him he looked good at the corner. Torkelson went 0-for-3 with a strikeout at the plate, but his defense still made it a productive day.
“Getting him some action against guys that he has only watched on TV is only going to help him,” Hinch said, “and he responded very favorably.”
Torkelson is slated to move across the infield to first base for another start Saturday night against the Orioles in Sarasota, weather permitting.
Don’t sell him short
After two errors and some shaky throws at shortstop earlier in the week, Willi Castro made a pair of deceptively difficult plays to convert dribblers into outs, charging in and throwing on the move. Those plays included an out on Giancarlo Stanton to end a third-inning threat and an out on the speedy Brett Gardner in the fourth.
“We do need to compliment him on the plays that he does make, because he’s making a lot of ones,” Hinch said. “There’s been a couple of hiccups along the way, and that’s OK. He’s going to make mistakes. The more natural he can become, the more confident he’ll become, the more of a complete player he’ll become.”
Castro said he has been doing early work with infield coach Ramon Santiago, who helped him make strides on his fielding last Spring Training by having him use a pancake glove to bring the ball into his mitt.
“I think I’m doing a better job, and I know I can do a better job,” Castro said. “Keep doing that every day and I’m going to get better.”
Boyd walked a pair of batters in his first outing of this spring, but he finished with two hitless innings and a strikeout against a righty-heavy Yankees lineup.
Boyd made a point to work in his changeup, a pitch he tried to improve in the offseason. He threw it for 10 of his 37 pitches Friday, according to Statcast, more than he used his workhorse slider.
“The goal is to use everything," Boyd said. "Go out there and attack with everything. I like how we used it.”
Michael Fulmer cleared intake testing and will start for the Tigers on Saturday, Hinch said. Fulmer returned home to Oklahoma earlier this week to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.
Franklin Peréz will get into a game soon, Hinch said, after throwing a second session of live batting practice Thursday. The right-handed prospect was delayed to camp by intake testing and has been brought along slowly to limit any injury risk.
Zach Short joined the team in Tampa but did not play Friday after being hit a by pitch in the helmet Thursday against the Blue Jays. The infield prospect underwent testing for concussion symptoms but checked out fine. He should return to action Saturday.