College teammates Foley, Short reunite

Detroit Tigers

TAMPA, Fla. — Sacred Heart University, a school in Fairfield, Conn., with an enrollment of around 8,500 students, has produced one Major League player: Troy Scribner, who pitched in 11 games for the Angels and Diamondbacks in 2017 and ’18 after going undrafted.

As the Tigers took the field for the bottom of the sixth inning Monday against the Yankees, they had two Sacred Heart players in their ranks. While Zack Short finished out his second consecutive game at shortstop, Jason Foley made his spring debut on the mound.

Fittingly, the two former college teammates helped each other out. While Foley pounded Yankees hitters with 99 mph fastballs, he had a clean inning thanks to two groundouts to short — in this case, Short.

Short and Foley played together at Sacred Heart from 2014-16. They came to the Tigers organization at different times and in different ways, but both have something to prove this spring.

Foley arrived first, signing as an undrafted free agent after making an impression in summer leagues. He was a hard thrower with inconsistent command, but a dominant summer at Class A West Michigan in 2017 opened eyes.

Just when Foley seemed set to climb prospect rankings, he suffered a right elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery, costing him the 2018 season. He returned in time to pitch in 36 games for Class A Advanced Lakeland in ’19, not throwing as hard but getting outs.

Foley’s second season back from surgery was supposed to be his return to form, but the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown of the Minor League season ruined those plans. He spent September at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, but Monday marked his first real game action in a year and a half.

Short was a 17th-round Draft pick by the Cubs in 2016. By ’19, he had made it all the way to Triple-A Iowa, where he hit just .211 but posted a .751 OPS with help from nine doubles, six home runs and 21 walks in 41 games. He spent last summer working out at home before Chicago traded him to the Tigers for outfielder Cameron Maybin at the Deadline last August.

As Short joked, he went from his couch to the alternate site. Fortunately, he had a familiar face there.

“It’s funny, I played college baseball with Jason Foley, who was at Toledo as well,” Short said. “We’re kind of best friends from then, and that made that transition a lot easier.”

Short was automatically a part of Major League camp as a member of the 40-man roster. Foley is in Tigertown as part of the Minor League minicamp; those players can be added as extras for Grapefruit League games.

Though they’re teammates again, they were opponents last week for a session of live batting practice, where Foley didn’t let up on his old college buddy.

“It’s the same. I still want to get him every time I face him,” Short said. “It was kind of funny. I was on deck and it was kind of cool just looking out there and seeing him and we’re both in the same uniform. You know, if you would’ve told us this walking into campus freshman year, we would’ve been like, ‘Yeah, you’re kind of crazy.’”

Seeing them together in Tigers uniforms against the Yankees on Monday was crazier.

Tork, Miggy to debut in coming days
The Tigers’ future and current star sluggers are on track to make their first appearances of the spring in the next couple days. Spencer Torkelson, whose Grapefruit League debut has been delayed by a cut on his right index finger, is on the travel roster for Tuesday’s game against the Pirates. He’ll likely play the last couple innings of what is scheduled to be a five-inning game, Hinch said.

At this point, no one in Tigers camp might be looking forward to game action more than Torkelson. Besides the can-opening mishap that resulted in his finger injury last week, Torkelson slipped and tumbled around first base during baserunning drills last Friday, a blooper that landed him more good-natured ribbing from teammates and even Hall of Famer Alan Trammell.

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