How Tigers’ Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene are handling Triple-A — on and off the field

Detroit Free Press

TOLEDO, Ohio — Sometimes a man’s choice of fashion says something about who he is, or at least aspires to be.

So with a little twinkle in his eye and a tiny spritz of joy in his voice, Spencer Torkelson offered up this little morsel about his roommate, Riley Greene: He loves shopping at Lululemon, the Canadian clothier famous for its women’s yoga pants.

“Yeah,” Torkelson said, “I think Riley’s addicted to it. It’s bad.”

Torkelson enjoys the store as well, even if Greene’s appreciation is on another level. “They sell a lot of stuff,” he said. “Their men’s line is pretty legit. It’s really comfortable.”

The Detroit Tigers’ top two prospects have only been in Toledo a little more than a week after being called up Aug. 15. But since then they’ve developed an affinity for visiting the Lululemon in their new town, where things seem to be suiting both players well as they learn the Triple-A ropes; or go shopping, go out for breakfast or watch a Netflix movie together.

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There’s something that makes sense about Greene and Torkelson liking the fashion-forward clothing brand, whose company “manifesto” is full of affirmations like “Be open about falling apart. It’s what will keep you together,” and “Positive stress helps achieve ‘impossible.’”

Simplistic, yes. But maybe also true for two young players who are trying to find their way while facing the stiffest competition of their lives — and carrying the hope of the Tigers’ future as they go about it.

“It’s a little different everywhere,” Torkelson said of his journey this year from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A. “If you go from West Michigan to Erie to Toledo, it’s going to be different, the guys are going to be a little older, a little more mature. But for the most part, it’s still just baseball.”

‘The game’s a little faster’

Torkelson, the No. 4 overall MLB prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is 21. Greene, the No. 7 overall MLB prospect, is 20 — and he’s also the Mud Hens’ first player born in the 2000s.

By comparison, the St. Paul Saints, who opened a six-game series Tuesday at Fifth Third Field, have 35-year-old pitcher Nick Vincent on their roster.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story about discrepancies in age. Greene was beaming with pride Tuesday about the breakfast sandwich he made for himself and Torkelson: An everything bagel with bacon, cheese and an egg he fried over-easy.

“Really good,” he said with a big smile, “really good.”

And an adorable story — that might make Greene the Son of the Year frontrunner — involved him talking about watching “Sweet Girl” on Netflix with his roomie. They watched the film starring Jason Momoa after Greene’s mother, Lisa, called and recommended it.

“It was pretty good,” he said. “I was confused by most of it. I didn’t know what was going on, but at the end I was like, ‘OK, that makes sense now.’ But most of the movie I was like, ‘What am I watching? I don’t even understand this.’ ”

Imagine sticking with a 1-hour, 50-minute movie registering 19% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer just because your mom recommended it. Impressive.

Momoa might have flummoxed him, but so far he’s understanding the Triple-A pitchers fairly well. In seven games, he’s slashing .269/.367/.462 with six RBIs and a home run.

“The game’s a little faster,” Greene said of the adjustment to Triple-A. “You’ve got to take it day by day, learn a couple things and have fun because that’s part of it… come out here, have fun every day and everything else will take care of itself.”

Torkelson, who has played first base in all seven games, has had a slower start. He’s hitting .143/.194/.250 with two RBIs and two extra-base hits. He has spoken about dealing with the constant failure baseball presents and learning from it. Easier said than done with you go 0-for-4 in your Triple-A debut.

“I kind of just let it feed the fire,” he said, “going in tomorrow, working out, getting my routine in and knowing that I was 0-for-4, well, I’m probably due for a couple knocks today.”

Torkelson put his policy into practice and did exactly that the next day, when he got his first hit — a triple — and went 2-for-4 with three runs scored.

Pleasing the baseball gods

If you’ve never heard Torkelson speak, his positive vibe is endearing, and I would guess infectious in the clubhouse.

While speaking about his struggles, Torkelson was honest. Yet he still found the silver lining and through a process of upbeat alchemy gilded his outlook even further.

“It’s actually very difficult,” he said of trying to stay positive amid failure, “but I think that’s what’s so beautiful about this game. You can go 0-for-20, you know? Great hitters do that. But it’s about how you react to that and how you develop and push through times like that.

“I love adversity. I tell myself that every day, that adversity makes you better. I’m a true believer in that, and it kind of fuels the fire of working even harder.”

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As a practical matter, one of Torkelson’s methods is a judicious approach to watching video of his swing.

“For me, I could get in the trap of watching video all day,” he said. So he largely ignores his failures and focuses on his best swings.

“I look at my great swings to see, what am I feeling different?” he said. “What did I feel there that I’m not feeling right now? And that kind of seems to get me locked in faster.”

There’s something else, too. It’s a bit of a secret and it involves picking up a little trash in the dugout after the game.

You see, Torkelson believes in the baseball gods. And he’s devout. To him, honoring those diamond deities means playing the game the right way. No bat-breaking petulance. Instead, he runs out a pop fly hard, perhaps all the way to second base.

“And what if the guy does drop it?” he said. “You’re not going to look like a — I don’t even the know the word — (you’re going to look like) a bad person if you’re just walking to first when the ball is in the air for 10 seconds.”

Overzealous? Perhaps. But Torkelson is a true believer and he takes it beyond the field.

“I just take pride in respecting the baseball gods,” he said, “whether it’s picking up some gum wrappers or water bottles after the game, just anything to be a good teammate, and obviously it pays off.”

I love this about Torkelson. If you think this is a little extreme, you’re not the only one.

“Our bullpen catcher actually was like, ‘Dude, stop picking up trash,’” Torkelson said. “But dude, the baseball gods will pay me back for doing this, that’s why.”

When the dude’s got a point, the dude’s got a point.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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