For the second time this Spring Training, Spencer Torkelson has been cut, this time from the Tigers' camp roster.
It makes for a good line after Torkelson’s can-opening incident at the start of Spring Training, but it has no impact on Detroit’s Opening Day roster picture.
Despite the well-deserved attention on Torkelson, who retains his top spot in MLB Pipeline’s just-updated Tigers Top 30 prospects list, and outfielder Riley Greene, who ranks third, neither was going to make the team yet. Their inclusion in Spring Training as non-roster invitees was more of a learning experience -- not just for them to get to know Detroit’s new coaching staff, but vice versa.
With Spring Training down to its final week and a half and the Tigers focused on 26-man roster decisions, Torkelson and Greene were reassigned Saturday to the team’s minicamp. They’ll still make some late appearances in Grapefruit League games, but otherwise will take part in workouts before Minor League Spring Training begins at the end of the month.
Both were non-roster invitees, so neither has to be assigned to a specific level yet. Torkelson is expected to make his first Minor League stop at Class A Advanced West Michigan, general manager Al Avila suggested last month, while Greene is expected to jump to Double-A Erie. Both teams’ seasons open in May.
Both youngsters showed growing pains in Grapefruit League action against big league competition and reflected the difficulty last year’s lost Minor League season had on a lot of prospects. The 21-year-old Torkelson went 1-for-20 with three walks and 12 strikeouts, his lone hit a single on March 13 against the Phillies. Torkelson's power could be seen in his healthy hacks, but he struggled to make contact, and he seemed to struggle with indecisiveness on some pitches as Spring Training wore on, perhaps looking for an impact hit.
The 20-year-old Greene, who was the talk of last year’s Spring Training with his plate discipline and big hits, batted 3-for-18 with five walks and seven strikeouts this spring. He put together savvy at-bats but also seemed to look for bigger hits at times.
Through the struggles, the duo's talent and work ethic made an impression.
“They’re really good players, and I see why the organization’s high on them. I see why the industry is really high on them,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think their practice behind the scenes has been really good. Obviously, we wish the performance on the field would have been ... that they had a little bit more fun in the games. I think they both showed flashes of what they can do. And it’s hard with the timing that they’re not getting into games that much, not playing every day.
“I think their makeup is plus across the board. Their futures are bright. I think they left the big league camp side with some things to work on and an understanding of what they need to do to get from where they’re at now to the big leagues. But I learned that the makeup’s real and the talent’s real, and I think the timeline for when they can advance is going to be based on how they perform.”
No Opening Day starter yet
The Tigers have usually named their Opening Day starter by this point in past camps. They haven’t done it yet in Hinch’s first Spring Training as skipper.
“We’ll see how the next couple days ago. I know everybody’s in a rush to make decisions,” Hinch said. “Opening Day is 12 days away. We’ll have a starter that day. I’ll name him eventually, but we’ll see.”
One possible reason behind waiting a few more days could be Spencer Turnbull’s status. He’s being held out of camp for now due to COVID-19 protocols, a measure Hinch made a point to say was not due to any protocol violation on Turnbull’s part. For now, though, Detroit has no public timetable on Turnbull’s return.
“That’s like a Home Depot strike zone,” Boyd said. “You get the cheap yellow chain, you clip that and get a few carabiners. It’s like $8 worth, and you can make a strike zone with some lines up and down, hang it on a lacrosse net and you’re solid. You get creative when you can’t find a catching partner.”
Speaking of Boyd, another Opening Day option, the left-hander tossed four innings of one-run ball on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts during Saturday's 3-1 win against the Pirates. Boyd picked up a couple of inning-ending outs on pickoff plays, including Kevin Newman's ill-fated attempt to steal home when Boyd tried to pick off Anthony Alford at first base.
“It’s great to be able to get every situation in spring,” Boyd said. “You want opportunities to field your position. You want opportunities to get into down. It’s like inexpensive experience. You want to get in these situations because they’re going to present themselves over the course of a 162-game season, not just for me but for everybody.”
Boyd went back to his bread-and-butter mix, throwing 29 fastballs and 28 sliders out of 80 pitches according to Statcast. The slider didn’t draw any swings and misses, but none of the four balls in play off the slider were hit harder than 81 mph.
• Miguel Cabrera’s first home run of the spring Saturday was an opposite-field loft toward the right-field corner off a Tyler Anderson fastball. He’d had several hard-hit outs this week.
“He was also very active with the glove, which we all love when he’s out at first base,” Hinch said.
• Joe Jiménez picked up a much-needed perfect inning of relief, retiring the Pirates in order during a nine-pitch seventh. Five of those pitches were sliders, a sign of adjustment for him.
“He’s gotta be able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes, specifically early in the count, for him to play with that fastball late,” Hinch said.