Why Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene are unlike any Detroit Tigers duo before them

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — They are coming, sooner rather than later, though their manager, AJ Hinch, remains poker-faced about when that moment will be.

When it comes and Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson finally arrive in Detroit — whether on the same day or not — they will add more crackle to what’s already cooking in the city, like water on a cast iron skillet.

Surely, you can feel it, the anticipation, the buzz, the thought of what two of baseball’s best prospects might look like taking cuts at Comerica Park draped in the Detroit Tigers Old English D. Their skills are different: Greene is a rangy, elegant outfielder with a liquid swing and a movie star’s countenance; Torkelson is all torque and coiled up energy, a vacuum cleaner in the dirt around the first base bag.

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Each has power to every part of the field. Each can hit for average. Both amassed a .900-plus OPS as they rocketed through the minors.

Torkelson may be more major-league ready right now, mostly because of his experience playing high-level college baseball at Arizona State. Though Greene isn’t far behind in poise and polish.

On Monday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium, Hinch penciled them in the seventh and eighth slots of the lineup. And while they are inseparable off the diamond — they live together, share rides and meals together, share expectations together — they’re linked because of their potential on it.

Both made outs their first two at-bats — Greene grounded to short and flied to center; Torkelson flied to left and then center — and both made their splash in their third at-bat.

Greene lifted a shot high into the right-field winds for a home run. Torkelson followed with a double to deep center.

“Maybe the wind took it out,” said Greene, ever humble. “I don’t know.”

And yet?

“A homer is a homer.”

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Torkelson took third on a fly ball to right.

“Don’t sleep on Tork’s wheels,” Greene said, smiling, mostly for Torkelson, who was sitting next to his fast friend as they broke down their day in the clubhouse Monday. “Tork is sneaky fast.”

Torkelson chuckled at the (backhanded?) compliment. Then added that, yeah, his first 10 yards aren’t such a sight.

“I just have to get going,” he said.

Once he goes, though, he’s hard to slow. The Tigers are counting on it. Even if they aren’t quite ready to commit to unleashing these brothers in potential.

“They still have things to do to make this team,” Hinch said Monday morning. “Can’t put it any more simply than that.”

That may be. And probably likely is considering how precise Hinch likes to gauge and measure. There are other considerations, of course. Managing timelines in the spring can be dicey and the last thing a manager wants to do is promote a player before he’s ready.

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Both for possible setbacks at the plate and for dominoes within the clubhouse. Players have to earn their shot, no matter their draft status or the glowing state of their prospect report. Veterans can sniff out fake. They can also spot talent.

“Have you ever seen these guys play?” Miguel Cabrera asked reporters earlier this month. “They’re really good. They’re going to mean a lot to our team.”

He isn’t the only veteran to notice what the pair have cooking. And for Tigers radio voice Dan Dickerson, the excitement among the established players is as good a reason to be pumped about the possibilities this summer.

“When you see veterans excited about kids joining them?” he said this week. “That’s exciting.”

Dickerson has been with the Tigers for 23 years. He can’t remember the last time the team was so close to adding two prospects with such potential.

“Guys,” he said, that “are this highly thought of outside the organization … nationally.”

The promise is palpable down here in central Florida. It’s not hard to feel the same back home, either. Mostly because few things captivate like a day-to-day push for the postseason. But also, because these two youngsters aren’t just headed to the Tigers, they are headed to Detroit.

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To a city where similarly gifted youngsters play for the Pistons, Wings and Lions as well. Let’s call ’em the deuces of Detroit:

Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Penei Sewell and … a quarterback to be named later?

Maybe the Lions will find a bookend to Sewell in next month’s NFL draft. Can you imagine? No? Well, give it a try. For there are few things like watching young talent on the rise.

Greene tries not to think about the expectation he and Torkelson will carry when Hinch gives them a spot on the roster. But he absolutely knows it’s out there and knows there’s a youth movement cooking in the city.

At the moment, he is grateful to know everyone in the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium, something he didn’t know last spring. Familiarity has helped him relax this year, like a high schooler who finally knows where his classes are.

I’ve just kind of relaxed and taken a deep breath,” he said. “I’m more comfortable.”

With his surroundings, with expectation, with the junk thrown at this level, all of which makes it easy to shrug off his easy power and credit the wind when he loops a moonshot over the fence.

He is getting ready. So is Torkelson.

A couple of lights soon to join an increasingly starry Detroit sky.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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