LAKELAND, Fla. — The can-opening incident was a light-hearted introduction to Spring Training for Spencer Torkelson. It was never expected to be the most healthy cut he took in camp.
This is not the way Torkelson envisioned his first camp unfolding. This is also not the way the Tigers want their top prospect to head into his first Minor League stop, which is part of the reason they’re going to keep him around a little longer after the team made its first round of roster moves Friday morning.
Torkelson is slated to play at some point in every Grapefruit League game until Thursday’s off-day, manager A.J. Hinch said.
“We’re gonna keep rolling him out there and getting him some experience,” Hinch said Thursday after Torkelson made a throwing error at third base. “But we’ve got to remember, we need to find a way to have him leave the day having some fun.
“It’s easy to beat yourself up when you make mistakes or you punch out. It’s relatively meaningless, especially in a career that’s just getting started, but it’s no fun to go through what he’s going through at this level. He wants to make a big impression, and it feels like it’s piling up on him, but we still think he’s a pretty good player.”
The frustration has been evident. Torkelson has slammed his bat after some at-bats, and he’s hung his head after strikeouts.
In many ways, this is the first competitive environment for Torkelson since his last college game at Arizona State last March. He went almost straight from the MLB Draft to Detroit’s Summer Camp, where he faced new teammates in intrasquad games. He did the same at the alternate training site before heading to the Florida Instructional League.
Torkelson is getting back to game intensity by facing Major League pitching in many Grapefruit League games, or advanced Minor League pitchers in others. He said last week that he’s getting more out of Spring Training than in Summer Camp and that the games have slowed down for him, but he also acknowledged the difference in competition.
“It’s really difficult to compare the two, to be honest with you,” Torkelson said last week. “You’re not facing a 20-year-old taking classes every day. You’re facing a 25-year-old that’s been doing this for a living for a couple years, which is fun and it’s great, and I feel comfortable up there.”
Burrows, Funkhouser, Hess among moves
The Tigers made 11 roster moves Friday, mostly on the pitching side. Beau Burrows, Alex Faedo, Kyle Funkhouser and Joey Wentz were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while Dillon Dingler, Zack Hess, Gerson Moreno, Daniel Pinero, Jacob Robson, Aderlin Rodriguez and Danny Woodrow were re-assigned to minicamp.
All of the moves were expected. Faedo and Wentz were formalities. Faedo is out for the season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery; Wentz underwent the same surgery a year ago and he is expected to return to Minor League action this summer.
Burrows and Funkhouser were the only ones in the bunch with a chance to win roster spots. Burrows, the Tigers’ top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings March 1 against the Yankees, then gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Orioles on Saturday. Funkhouser, who also appeared in those two games, gave up a three-run inning against the O’s after walking two Yankees in a scoreless inning.
With the Triple-A season delayed a month, Burrows and Funkhouser will be part of the alternate training site in Toledo when the season opens. They’ll stretch out as long relievers to be ready for different scenarios.
“I think, right now, we’re going to leave them hovering in that two- and three-inning conditioning role where we need 50 pitches out of them,” Hinch said. “That’s not saying they won’t start at some point during the Minor League season — if they’re in the Minors — but we need to be smart with how we build them up.”
• The Tigers announced they’ve reached contract agreements with all of their pre-arbitration players. The one-year deals were all formalities.
• Jonathan Schoop was cleared to join Tigers camp on Thursday. He’s expected to make his game debut as a designated hitter this weekend.