Detroit Tigers observations: On day when baseball seems dead, Riley Greene’s bat emerges

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — It felt like a funeral in a ballpark.

Less than 24 hours after MLB canceled the first week of regular-season games, the mood at TigerTown was dreary.

There were sad faces and gloomy whispers — and that was just a small group of reporters gathered between fields on a cold morning — but the Detroit Tigers still held minicamp on Wednesday morning.

“Bring positive energy!” a coach yelled. “Control the controllables!”

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And nobody can control this.

Nobody has any idea how long the lockout will last.

Or when the season might start.

Or when the players might start spring training.

Some members of the Tigers organization don’t know if they will be staying in Lakeland or heading back to Detroit.

All they know is that games have been canceled.

But these minor leaguers continue to train, getting ready for their seasons.

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A small group of fans waited for autographs. And beyond the left field fence, a child started screaming as Spencer Torkelson took batting practice.

“Let’s go, Tigers!” the child screamed. “Let’s go Tigers!”

Remember when you would hear that in Comerica Park, back in the good old days of actual games?

OK, sorry. That sadness is hard to kick.

Greene goes yard

Tigers outfielder Riley Greene, a prospect significantly impacted by MLB’s lockout and cancellation of games, had no problem bringing the complex to live for a moment, blasing a home run over the right-field fence.

Greene, 21, connected with a fastball from right-hander Austin Bergner. It was his first homer in live batting practices.

“It felt good,” Greene said.

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“I wanted to go changeup to him,” Bergner said, “but we’re working on stuff right now as far as really commanding our fastball. I think I did a good job commanding four pitches today. I felt like my headspace was really good and really confident in all the pitches I was throwing.”

Greene said he knew a fastball was coming.

Bergner was tipping his pitches.

“When I was just watching him from the side, I noticed he was looking down for two seconds when he would throw a fastball,” Greene said. “When he would just look down, look up, it was a changeup.”

‘Feeling good’

Mike Rothenberg, a 2021 12th-round draft pick out of Duke, has displayed massive power in batting practice, both against pitching machines and coaches.

And it transferred into live action on Wednesday.

He hit a home run off Tanner Kohlhepp, who was the Tigers’ fifth-round pick in 2021 out of Notre Dame. It was Rothenberg’s second time facing Kohlhepp in his career; he singled off the right-hander in the 12th inning of a game between the Blue Devils and Fighting Irish on March 19, 2021.

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“I’ve been feeling good,” Rothenberg said. “Trying to groove from both sides of the plate.”

Rothenberg, 23, is a switch-hitting catcher taken 345th overall in 2021. He played five games in rookie ball before his promotion to Low-A Lakeland, where he hit .263 with a home run and five doubles in 24 games.

“As a switch-hitter, you know, it’s, it’s something that’s rare is to be able to hit for power from both sides,” he said. “I hit most my home runs on the left-hand side in college. This past offseason, just learning how to produce from the right-hand side for power numbers, slugging numbers, stuff like that, you know, if I’m able to hit a bunch of home runs, from both sides of plate, and I think that it helps my game a lot.”

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