While one Tigers top prospect is going on a much-anticipated hitting tear, another one spent his Saturday taking hits away.
Spencer Torkelson returned to the High-A West Michigan lineup in time for a two-homer outburst for the Whitecaps Saturday night against Lake County. MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 overall prospect now has three home runs in his last four games and is on a 10-for-24 tear over his past seven games after starting the season with a 6-for-41 skid.
Torkelson missed three games with left hamstring tightness before returning as a pinch-hitter Friday night. Saturday marked his first start in six days, and he made up for lost time.
Both home runs Saturday were classic Tork Bombs in distance and altitude. In the sixth inning, he hit a towering shot to left-center off Lake County lefty reliever Tim Herrin for a go-ahead three-run homer that exited LMCU Ballpark. Two innings later, Torkelson provided the exit velocity against an offspeed pitch from Gianpaul Gonzalez, a catcher summoned to pitch in a 17-5 Whitecaps win. Torkelson’s three-run shot clattered off the manual scoreboard in left.
Torkelson’s good friend Riley Greene couldn’t compete with the power display, but the Double-A Erie center fielder denied Altoona a pair of hits Saturday. He charged into left-center and dove head first to take a bloop single away from Daniel Amaral for the final out of the second inning.
Three innings later, Greene went soaring across right-center field to swipe a potential double from Deon Stafford.
Greene, MLB Pipeline’s No. 16 prospect, also went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and a run scored, raising his average to .284 as part of the SeaWolves’ 5-4 win to salvage a doubleheader split on the road. He’s gone 13-for-35 with three homers and 11 RBIs over his past 10 games.
Wentz begins ramp-up in return to action
Tigers No. 7 prospect Joey Wentz makes his second start in a rehab assignment for Low-A Lakeland on Sunday as he progresses back from Tommy John surgery. The 23-year-old lefty hadn’t pitched in a game since August 2019 for Double-A Erie before throwing 1 2/3 innings for the Flying Tigers on Tuesday.
The assignment begins what is expected to be a slow, methodical progression for Wentz up the Tigers’ farm system.
“We’re going to nurse him along and get him feeling fully healthy and back to 100 percent, kick off the rust and the nerves and the anxiousness that comes with coming back from a surgery like this,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “and then gently kind of push him along, level by level. It wouldn’t surprise me if he sees every level along the way. …
“We’ve talked a little bit about the best use of him competitively, because every level you go, you start and you feel a little bit comfortable, you should feel confident to work on things while you’re competing. You get to the next level at Double-A, he’s been there before, it’s going to feel a little more normal. If we push him to Triple-A, that’s a whole other level of stress. We want to make sure that he’s physically able to handle all of those steps, but we think we’re going to be able to get him at the very least to the level that he’s pitched at before, if not higher.”
Clemens nearing rehab assignment
Kody Clemens, the Tigers’ 14th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, hasn’t played since Triple-A Toledo’s opener on May 4 due to a left forearm strain. However, the second baseman is nearing a return, playing in games in extended spring training. He’s expected to begin a rehab assignment for Low-A Lakeland next week.
“I think he’s going to end up playing a little bit down in Lakeland before he jumps right back into the upper levels and gets back into his season,” Hinch said. “We would like to get him healthy. The healthier he is, the more he becomes an option as a bat for us.”