Torkelson’s first Double-A HR a game-winner

Detroit Tigers

ERIE, Pa. — The last time Spencer Torkelson hit his first home run in a league, he went on a tear for High-A West Michigan. He didn’t wait to put up his first Double-A homer, sending a tiebreaking drive to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete a two-hit night and send the Erie SeaWolves to a 4-2 win over Altoona on Friday night at UPMC Park.

It wasn’t a towering drive like the usual “Tork Bombs,” but Torkelson provided the power off a 1-2 breaking ball and sent a line drive with a 106 mph exit velocity off the hockey arena beyond left field. He saw all offspeed pitches in the at-bat.

“I had two strikes on me, so my approach was looking fastball away and then just reacting to anything inside,” Torkelson said. “The approach paid off right there, seeing a slider up and doing damage to it.”

The only question was altitude — whether it was high enough to clear the yellow line that runs across Erie Insurance Arena. It’s a short distance from home plate, just 317 feet down the line, but it takes some lift.

The right-handed-hitting Torkelson admittedly had been eyeing the dimensions ever since the Tigers’ top prospect was promoted from West Michigan at the start of the week. 

“Of course, you start licking your chops a little bit,” he said. “But the way I try to approach it at the plate is: I’m trying to stay in the big part of the field. Things like that happen; getting under a slider right there and using that short porch to my advantage. But it does get a little tempting sometimes to look over there.”

It was the second line drive Torkelson had ripped to left Friday night, following a double into the corner two innings earlier that set up a game-tying sacrifice fly from Tigers No. 4 prospect Dillon Dingler.

The homer scored Tigers’ No. 2 prospect, and Torkelson’s good friend, Riley Greene, whose infield single two batters earlier completed a three-hit night.

Torkelson’s second 2-for-4, two-RBI performance in three days raised his average to .267 (4-for-15) through five Double-A games. Compared to his 1-for-16, 10-strikeout start at West Michigan, he has made the adjustment this time almost seamlessly.

“Guys do have a little better stuff, a little better command of all their pitches,” Torkelson said. “But I trust my approach and my ability to [wherever], whatever is thrown at me, I’m going to succeed.”

It’s a reason why Torkelson ranks third on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list.

“We all know the potential he has,” SeaWolves manager Arnie Beyeler said. “He can hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark. It was just great timing right there to help us out with a win.”

It helps being part of a formidable batting order, one that includes three of the Tigers’ top four prospects in Greene, Torkelson and Dingler. Shortstop Ryan Kreidler, the Tigers’ No. 21 prospect, gets the benefit of batting second.

“It’s awesome,” Torkelson said. “You’ve got runners on base all the time. You’ve got a lot of studs in that lineup.”

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