LAKELAND, Fla. — This was supposed to be the biggest spring training yet for the Detroit Tigers‘ top prospects.
First baseman Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene were competing for spots on the Opening Day roster, and if everything went as planned, they would make their anticipated MLB debuts in Seattle on March 31.
Now, they’re preparing for April 5.
That’s because “The Tork and Greene Show” is almost certainly returning to Triple-A Toledo, as MLB announced Tuesday its decision to cancel the first two series of the league’s regular season.
The Mud Hens begin their 2022 season April 5 at Fifth Third Field in Toledo.
“Since they said they’re going to push back Opening Day, I’m locked in on April 5,” Torkelson said after Wednesday’s minor-league minicamp practice. “That’s when it starts for us, so that’s what I’m focused on. And then everything will fall into place if I just do that.”
The Tigers will miss at least seven games — four against the Mariners in Seattle and three against the Athletics in Oakland — due to MLB’s lockout and failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the players. The Tigers’ new Opening Day is scheduled for April 8 against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.
MLB owners implemented the lockout Dec. 2. Torkelson and Greene, a pair of former first-round draft picks, are not yet members of the Tigers’ 40-man roster, so they aren’t directly impacted by the lockout.
But indirectly, they’re taking a hit.
“I’m pretty content,” Torkelson said. “I mean, it’s pretty much out of my control. Right now, all I can do is come here every day, have fun, work hard, and our season is going to start on time, so focus on that. And then the big-league season will start, and then we’ll be ready to play whenever.”
LEARNING FROM RIBAS: A lesson in pitch-grip manipulation with Gabe Ribas and rising Tigers prospect
There won’t be MLB games until there’s labor peace.
After MLB and the MLB Players Association walked away from the bargaining table Tuesday afternoon, it feels like the lockout could drag into the summer; MLB owners expect to break even financially and maintain significant leverage over the players until at least May or June. The MLBPA, meanwhile, appears willing to wait as long as it takes to receive what the players consider a fair offer from the owners.
So, Torkelson and Greene could get stuck in limbo in Toledo.
“I don’t have a lot of trouble with dwelling on it,” Torkelson said. “It does affect me, but I’m not on the 40-man, so it’s not crazy. I hope they figure it out and we can get back to normal.”
“I’m just coming out here and doing what I love,” Greene said. “I’m going to work hard and play as hard as I can. Whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to do the things I can do and I can control. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
VETERAN’S CONFIDENCE: Ex-Red Sox in Tigers’ camp is banking on big things from Javier Baez, Cristian Santana
Torkelson and Greene finished last season with the Mud Hens.
Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, hit .238 with 11 home runs, 23 walks and 36 strikeouts in 40 games, finishing his first professional season with a .267 batting average and 30 homers in 121 games for three affiliates.
Greene, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019, produced a .308 batting average with eight homers, 22 walks and 51 strikeouts in 40 games for Toledo. He completed the year hitting .301 with 24 homers in 124 games for two affiliates.
Both players seem ready for their MLB debuts.
And now, their big-league arrivals are out of their control.
“Kind of going through the gauntlet a little bit,” Torkelson said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic and MLB lockout. “I think it makes you stronger and reinforces to control the controllable. Couldn’t control COVID, can’t control the lockout. I’m showing up every day and working hard.”