LAKELAND, Fla. — Get ready at Comerica Park, because Tork Bombs are incoming.
“Our intent is to have Torkelson on the team moving forward into the new season, barring anything happening between now and Opening Day,” general manager Al Avila said. “We’ve made that decision that he would be on the team.”
Torkelson will be the first Tiger to make his Major League debut on Opening Day since 2010, when Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore did so at center field and second base, respectively.
After the way Torkelson hit in Tigers camp this Spring Training, the only question that seemed to be left was the timing on when to finalize his promotion. One year after Torkelson went 1-for-27 with 16 strikeouts in his first Spring Training and became known in part for injuring his thumb trying to open a can, he has looked like a veteran preparing to fill a role as a big-league run producer, rather than a prospect fighting to win a job.
The 22-year-old slugger was batting 7-for-25 with four doubles and three RBIs entering Saturday. He has shown line-drive power to all fields, and just missed a home run to the depths of left-center. In the field, he has played a strong first base with an ability to reach for off-target throws while fielding hops.
“We were fully expecting for him to come in and compete and do good,” Avila said. “Our expectation and our hope was that he would show us that he can do this. We’re announcing it today, more or less, because we want him to relax now and to get all the speculation behind us.”
If Torkelson felt pressure, he didn’t show it — not in the field, not in the clubhouse.
“Confidence is there,” Torkelson said a week ago. “I feel great and I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t think it’s proving anything because they knew what they were going to get and they’re getting it.”
Still, Torkelson was emotional when the Tigers informed him in a Saturday morning meeting with Avila, manager A.J. Hinch and first baseman Miguel Cabrera. At the end, Cabrera — who said at the start of Spring Training that he was fine moving off of first base to make room for the youngster — presented Torkelson with his first-base mitt to make it official.
“He was very excited and very emotional, very happy,” Avila said.
Saturday’s announcement came just a few hours after the team said that fellow prospect Riley Greene will miss the start of the season with a fracture in his right foot, an injury that is likely to keep him out for several weeks.
Torkelson and Greene won’t get to debut as a duo like Hall of Famer Alan Trammell and five-time All-Star Lou Whitaker did in 1977. Still, Torkelson’s arrival should make Opening Day, already an unofficial holiday in Detroit, even more of a reason to celebrate.