LAKELAND, Fla. — Jake Rogers has some history watching top prospects grow up. The Tigers catching prospect caught Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo at Double-A Erie in 2019, then caught them again along with Tarik Skubal at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, last summer. He shared a house last Spring Training with Manning and Joey Wentz.
“Yeah, it’s like a running joke in the house,” Greene said on a video conference with reporters Wednesday. “So we have a lake in our backyard, and me and Tork are fishing, and Rogers comes out and he grabs a chair, sits down and watches us and makes a comment. He’s like, ‘I’m just watching my kids, guys.’
“I thought that was pretty funny. He’s kind of like the dad of the house.”
Greene, the Tigers’ top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, is just 20 years old. Torkelson, the last year’s top overall pick, is 21. Rogers, who turns 26 in April, is the parental figure.
“Those guys are a little younger than me,” Rogers said, “but we all get along well. I’ve got a young soul, I like to think. It’s been good. No one really is a slob yet, you know, so that’s been a blessing.”
With players staying and eating in as much as possible due to health and safety protocols, they’ve been trying to share the load on cooking. Rogers calls himself a steak guy and complimented Torkelson on his stir-fry cooking.
“Greeny hasn’t cooked yet,” Rogers said, “so we’ll have to get him on the stove pretty soon to see what he’s got for us.”
Considering how much Greene loves to fish, having spent part of his Draft bonus on a boat, that could soon be on the menu. He will not be cooking anything caught behind their place, though.
“I’m pretty sure there was probably two fish in the pond,” Greene said, “and we caught them both.”
Greene and Torkelson first met last year at Comerica Park, where they were the talk of the Tigers’ Summer Camp before the abbreviated season. While Torkelson was fresh off the Draft, Greene made national highlights with his leaping catch over the left-field fence to take a home run away from C.J. Cron in an intrasquad game. They spent last season at the alternate site in makeshift camp games.
“In Toledo, I learned a lot,” Greene said. “I got better as a player physically and mentally, so I was happy with that. And then I came to Lakeland for instructional league [last fall], and we actually got to play a couple teams in different jerseys, so that was awesome. Me and Tork were pretty happy about that, just the competitiveness that comes out there.”
Greene and Torkelson were also neighbors then, their rooms right next to each other.
“He’s such a great kid,” Torkelson said during the camp, “and I feel like the same age as him. He gives me a ride to the field every day, get some Starbucks or something before, eat dinner all the time. It’s a really good friendship we’ve got going.”
Now they’re teammates again in a setting where Greene was one of the surprises of Tigers’ Spring Training this time last year. Still a teenager at the time, Greene went 5-for-12 with two home runs, six walks and just two strikeouts in Grapefruit League play, earning repeated looks even though he technically was in Minor League camp.
This year, he not only gets to play with the big club, he gets to work out with them as an invite to Major League camp. In so doing, he’s learning more about the nuances of the game. His live batting practice group Wednesday included new Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman, who has made a point to offer information about his approach to young players who want to listen.
“We were just tracking, we weren’t even swinging, and just the things he was saying to me, things I wouldn’t think of,” Greene said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, man, look at the pitcher. Look what he’s doing. Like, he’s tipping his pitches. All pitchers are going to do something. Some are perfect, but most of them are not.’ Just the things he’s been telling me and the advice he’s been giving me have really been helping me.”
Greene won’t have to wait long to put the tips into practice. With Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes not yet in camp, manager A.J. Hinch said Detroit’s fourth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline should see plenty of action once Grapefruit League play begins Sunday. That will give him plenty of chances to make more plays and more impressions.