Torkelson walks, scores in spring debut

Detroit Tigers

BRADENTON, Fla. — Spencer Torkelson’s first Spring Training game appearance as a Tiger on Tuesday had a little irony to it.

Among the humbling moments that the top overall Draft pick endured in his first week of camp was a slip and fall around first base during baserunning drills on Friday. The drill took place on the field at Joker Marchant Stadium, so cameras caught it. Sure enough, the footage made its way into a morning meeting.

“We had a good joke about that,” reliever Derek Holland said a couple of days ago.

“I like to poke fun at some of the younger guys and lighten the mood a little bit,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Tork has, unfortunately, been on the receiving end of that.”

While Torkelson is known for elite power, he has also graded out well for sense of humor. As Willi Castro stood on second base following his two-run double in the third inning of the Tigers’ 6-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday at LECOM Park, out came Torkelson from the dugout to pinch-run.

Hinch had already given a heads-up that he’d get Torkelson into the five-inning game to get his feet wet. Intentional or not, the timing to get him in with his feet was fitting.

Torkelson was stranded at second, but he still ended up rounding the bases. His first Grapefruit League at-bat featured three big swings in the fifth inning, and he whiffed on two pitches and fouled off another from Pirates right-hander Max Kranick. However, Torkelson stayed calm enough to avoid Kranick’s full-count fastball and draw a walk.

The discipline was noted.

“Especially when you go up there ready to hit and he doesn’t present it to you,” Hinch said. “This is a team offense, and we’re going to try to keep preaching the 3-2 count. If you can be selective enough like it’s 2-2, that will get you to lay off those close pitches that are balls, and then you end up drawing walks. It’s not a free pass to swing, but it’s also not a premeditated take.”

JaCoby Jones’ ensuing drive off the center-field fence sent Torkelson rumbling around second and third. Torkelson looked like he might face a play at the plate, but the throw home went wide, allowing him to score standing up.

Now that Torkelson’s right index finger has healed from last week’s can-opening mishap, expect him to get a good amount of playing time despite the arrival of more established hitters who are fighting for roster spots.

“I’ve got a start for him later this week,” Hinch said. “We’re going to get to nine innings [in games] pretty soon, so there’s always a seventh, eighth, ninth to play until we start playing our guys every day, so to speak, in the last 10 days or so. So I’ll be creative in getting him into the game and getting him some exposure, getting him acclimated to play pretty regularly against some higher-end competition. This camp will be good for him.”

Here come the hitters
Slowly but surely, the Tigers are getting close to their full roster of hitters. First baseman Renato Núñez and outfielders Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes are in Lakeland and working out separately as they await clearance from intake testing and physicals to join camp. Third-base prospect Isaac Paredes is also in camp.

On the pitching side, Julio Teheran is in camp and working, and he could make his first Tigers appearance Sunday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The two notable absences remaining are second baseman Jonathan Schoop and right-hander and non-roster invite Wily Peralta. Hinch said he has texted with Schoop and kept track of his workouts while Schoop works to get clearance to travel.

“He wants to be here, but it’s a process,” Hinch said.

Quick hits
Michael Fulmer could make his first outing of the spring on Saturday against the Orioles in Sarasota if he returns to Lakeland and clears intake testing in time. The right-hander left the team over the weekend to return to Oklahoma and join his wife for the birth of their second child.

Franklin Perez threw live batting practice against Miguel Cabrera and a group of hitters on Monday. Perez will get another session this week before the Tigers decide whether and when to get him into a game, Hinch said.

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