LAKELAND, Fla. — The early scouting reports from Spencer Torkelson’s first Spring Training are in: 70-grade power, 80-grade sense of humor and humility.
“I think everyone goes through it every now and then,” the Tigers’ top prospect said of his pratfalls. “But I chose a pretty good time to do it, the first week of camp.”
Now that his right index finger injury is behind him, he can spill the beans — pun intended — about the can-opening mishap that caused it.
“The boys were hungry, and I was in charge of dinner that night,” said Torkelson, who’s sharing a rental house with teammates and fellow top prospects Riley Greene and Jake Rogers. “I was making this little corn salsa [with] a can of beans to put in it, and the Airbnb didn’t have a can opener. We tried to improvise, and we learned our lesson.”
The attempt resulted in a few stitches in Torkelson’s finger, put teammates in stitches when he had to retell the story in a morning meeting and delayed the young slugger’s Grapefruit League debut while hastening the purchase of a real can opener.
“We got a can opener before I got the stitches put in,” Torkelson said with a laugh.
For the next few days, Torkelson was limited to fielding and baserunning. The latter resulted in another mishap in a drill a couple of days later.
“In that specific drill, we were doing like a double. You start at home plate and you take a good turn [around first],” Torkelson explained. “I chose the wrong day to wear a brand-new pair of plastic spikes on brand-new bases, and [they] kind of slipped under me.”
The resulting tumble left even Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, who has mentored Torkelson through his transition to third base, giving him some good-natured ribbing.
“I couldn’t really give myself a break last week,” Torkelson said. “I kind of went through it. But I came back stronger, I promise.”
Torkelson won’t be allowed to forget that first week. But he also won’t soon forget the rush of adrenaline for his first Grapefruit League at-bat. He took three big swings Tuesday against Pirates reliever Max Kranick, missing on two and fouling off another, but he took four other pitches out of the strike zone for a walk.
“It felt great up there,” he said. “Of course there was some in-game adrenaline, but I took a deep breath, slowed it down and stuck to my old faithful approach, which is to try to stay in the middle of the field, getting a good pitch to hit and taking your walks.”
Torkelson took the walk. And when JaCoby Jones followed with a triple off the fence, he took his baserunning instruction to heart, took an aggressive turn around third and took advantage when the throw home went wide.
Did Torkelson give some grief back to his teammates when he got back in the dugout?
“No, but I’m glad I didn’t fall,” he joked.
Torkelson has had other cool moments in camp, too, some of which remind him how far he has come from an undrafted player out of high school to MLB Pipeline’s third-ranked prospect in baseball. As much attention as he has received as a future star, he was still taken aback when he arrived at Tigertown for the bus to Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday morning and found his bag packed, his cleats cleaned.
“You know, I’m not used to that,” he said. “That was pretty sweet. Like, what the heck? My cleats were never cleaned.”
The other cool moment Torkelson mentioned was a message from his dad.
“My dad has been a big baseball fan his whole life,” he said. “And he [sent] me a text: ‘My own son in Major League Spring Training. I always dreamed of it, but now it’s a reality.’ It’s pretty cool. I haven’t had that moment, but I’m sure my family has, which is great.”