Tork, Greene ready for challenge of Triple-A

Detroit Tigers

Spencer Torkelson was with his parents at their hotel room in Erie, Pa., when he got the call from SeaWolves manager Tom Prince that he was on the move. Riley Greene was with family, too, having dinner with his grandparents.

Once the Tigers’ top prospects and good friends realized that they, along with shortstop prospect Ryan Kreidler and super-utility player Brady Policelli, were all headed to Triple-A Toledo, the logistics began. When four prospects move together, it’s a matter of teamwork.

It was a move that many had anticipated as Greene and Torkelson heated up last week. But it wasn’t necessarily planned to happen quite so soon.

“We talked about it all throughout [Sunday],” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “and [general manager] Al [Avila] and I talked about it into the night. The organization really felt like the challenge was needed for these guys. The debate was whether or not they all go at the same time or you promote one at a time.

“For us, it became apparent: Let’s take advantage of the next six weeks and create a different look for them and see how they respond, see how that impacts future decisions.”

Once the decision was made to promote them together, and the packing was complete, the convoy trekked across Ohio fairly close together. But while Greene batted leadoff all season in Erie, he was the cleanup man in the move.

“Riley has a big truck, so he’s kind of like the U-Haul for the boys,” said Torkelson, making his second move of the season, on a video conference Tuesday with reporters.

“Yeah, my truck is full to the max right now with my stuff and some of the other guys’ stuff,” Greene said with a laugh.

It was a few hours of driving on Interstate 90, but it’s a huge move up the Tigers’ organizational ladder. They’re now just a short step from Comerica Park, physically and developmentally.

“Literally one more step to go,” Greene said. “It didn’t really hit me at first, but I was sitting on the couch in my apartment and I was like, ‘Wow, we’re one more step closer to the big leagues.’”

But they’re also on a level with players who have been in the big leagues before, some of them with fairly long careers. It’s not their first time at Fifth Third Field; they were there last summer at the alternate training site. But this time they’re facing other clubs and prospects from other organizations rather than intrasquad games, and they’re playing in front of major crowds.

“I think I’m most looking forward to playing in Triple-A, because now you’ve got a lot of guys that have some Show time that want to get back to the big leagues,” said Torkelson, who reached out to other players who had spent time there to get an idea of the jump. “Just to be around guys like that, to play against guys like that [is big], because you’re going to play against those guys in the future. So just to play that on a daily basis is definitely going to improve our game and just our outlook on the game.”

Though Torkelson has worked primarily at third base for most of the summer, he’s expected to see “a little more” time at first base in Toledo, Hinch said. Greene will move around the outfield after playing center and right in Erie. Kreidler will continue to be the primary shortstop with the Mud Hens, though Isaac Paredes could see some time there during his rehab assignment this week.

Unlike Double-A, where experimental rules this summer have required two infielders on either side of second base, they’ll be in a league where shifts are allowed. That could be a bigger deal against Greene, a left-handed hitter.

All of this means they’re likely to have some struggles, despite their recent success. But it won’t be new for any of them. Each of them struggled at Double-A in stretches before tearing it up recently. Policelli already had his Triple-A struggles, batting 3-for-51 in 18 games with the Mud Hens early in the season, before hitting .303 with an .885 OPS in 35 games at Erie.

It’s part of the developmental process.

“This being our first full season, I feel like this was one of our first times failing,” Greene said. “And it’s how you bounce back from that failure, trying to stay as confident as possible, showing up to the field every day with a good attitude and always knowing that you’re going to get that next at-bat the next day. I just feel like being confident and working hard will get through it.”

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