Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Torkelson on MLB lockout, wanting to meet Javier Baez

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers prospect Spencer Torkelson is ready for Major League Baseball’s lockout to end.

There’s optimism for labor peace between MLB and the MLB Players Association, as both sides continue negotiations Wednesday in New York in hopes of a new collective bargaining agreement.

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If MLB and the MLBPA strike a deal, Torkelson will immediately jump into big-league spring training and compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster. If the owners and players union don’t come to an agreement, another week of regular season games will be canceled.

“We’re all wanting to play baseball,” Torkelson said.

Torkelson, though, isn’t consumed by the ongoing labor negotiations. He receives multiple text message per day from his father, Rick, to stay updated with the latest happenings.

Because Torkelson isn’t on the 40-man roster, he isn’t directly impacted by MLB’s lockout, which began Dec. 2 upon the expiration of the previous CBA. Torkelson, unlike players on the 40-man roster, is allowed to enter the Tigers’ spring training facility in Lakeland.

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He views the on-field activities in minor-league minicamp, with general manager Al Avila and manager AJ Hinch observing, as a head start in his pursuit of becoming the team’s Opening Day first baseman.

“It’s nice being right here, being able to be in Lakeland and put in work here and get live at-bats and just keep working on the all-around aspects of the game,” Torkelson said. “That will help me to be even more ready when the time comes to prove myself.”

Torkelson finished the 2021 season in Triple-A Toledo.

The former No. 1 overall pick hit .238 with 11 home runs, 23 walks and 36 strikeouts in 40 games for the Mud Hens, finishing his first professional season with a .267 batting average and 30 homers in 121 games for three affiliates.

“I’d say I’m right where I want to be right now,” Torkelson said of his progress in minicamp. “I’m seeing the ball really well and finding the barrel. The outs are just a smidge of timing. In the next couple weeks, that’s going to click. And it’s going to be full-go.

“My swing has not changed. I lock it in during batting practice, and that’s when I feel really good. To carry over that swing in batting practice to the real game is strictly timing. That’s all that spring training is. When it comes, it’s fun.”

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Whenever MLB’s lockout concludes, Torkelson could be in for another four weeks of camp. The Triple-A season begins April 5, but the Tigers — based on the current schedule — won’t start the regular season until April 8.

“Any amount of time is an opportunity,” Torkelson said. “That’s the way I think all of us are looking at it. Give us an opportunity and a little bit of time to show ourselves. The rest will take care of itself.”

Hopefully, Torkelson’s opportunity comes sooner rather than later. He is eager to meet the newcomers — catcher Tucker Barnhart, shortstop Javier Baez and left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez — and reconnect with his friends on the 40-man roster.

Those in-person conversations won’t happen until the lockout is over.

Once again, the clock is ticking.

“He’s so much fun to watch,” Torkelson said of Baez, who signed a six-year, $140 million contract. “He plays the game the right way and has an unbelievable talent. His baseball IQ is through the roof. He’s definitely going to help this baseball team.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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