Spencer Torkelson expects Riley Greene to join Detroit Tigers ‘sooner rather than later’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson is eagerly awaiting one of his best friends to join him in the big leagues.

Outfielder Riley Greene, now recovered from a fracture in his right foot, took an important step Friday in hopes of soon making his MLB debut: He began his rehab assignment with Low-A Lakeland.

The plan is for Greene to move up to Triple-A Toledo on Monday, putting him one stop below the majors, where Torkelson has been playing since Opening Day.

“Me and him together, we have a lot of fun off the field and a lot of fun on the field,” Torkelson said Friday. “It’s great just having him around. … It’s probably sooner rather than later that we’re going to be playing together. I’m really excited.”

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Torkelson talked with Greene on the phone Friday, hours before Greene appeared in his first rehab game. The 21-year-old played five innings Friday in right field, replaced by Kingston Linak after the fifth inning. Batting behind 19-year-old leadoff hitter Izaac Pacheco, Greene finished 0-for-3 on a lineout and two groundouts. He is scheduled for nine innings Saturday as the designated hitter.

“He said he’s feeling really good,” Torkelson, 22, said.

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, on the other hand, wasn’t interested in talking at length about Greene’s recovery. He specifically declined to pinpoint his potential MLB debut, then spotlighted his current roster.

Greene, drafted No. 5 overall in 2019, is the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

He is also the No. 2 prospect in baseball.

“We got 26 guys on this club trying to play,” Hinch said. “It’s important for the organization for the young players to play. It’s more important for us to focus up here and let him mend. When and if he’s ready to come, then great, just like any young prospect.”

Three months ago, Hinch planned to employ Greene in center field on Opening Day, just as Torkelson was on first base for Opening Day. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick is hitting .179 with four home runs, 11 RBIs, 18 walks and 41 strikeouts in 40 games.

Greene shined as the Tigers’ best hitter in spring training, but he fractured his right foot April 1 on a foul ball at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. He finished camp with a .421 batting average, three doubles, two triples, two home runs, four RBIs, three walks and six strikeouts across 11 games.

The Tigers, without Greene, have started 2022 at 16-28 — second-worst in the American League Central and fourth-worst in MLB. The starting rotation has been plagued by injuries. The offense is the worst in baseball, averaging 2.77 runs per game, more than half a run behind the Oakland A’s at No. 29. Torkelson is one of many Tigers struggling at the plate as one-fourth of the season is already in the books.

But Torkelson thinks Greene can provide a spark.

“That bat, you need him in the lineup every day, and you need him healthy,” Torkelson said. “He helps the team win, whether it’s making plays in the outfield, getting on base, stealing a base or just being a good teammate. He’s a six-tool player in my opinion.”

The Tigers’ organization received another boost Friday, as infielder Ryan Kreidler was activated for Triple-A Toledo. The 24-year-old entered Friday’s lineup as the starting shortstop and doubled on the first pitch of his first plate appearance. He went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and was replaced by John Valente after the seventh inning.

Kreidler, the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect, fractured his right hand April 26 on a hit-by-pitch, underwent surgery and needed just one month to return to the Mud Hens. The speed of Kreidler’s recovery surprised Torkelson.

“That’s crazy,” Torkelson said. “I got the same surgery going into freshman year of college, and I was out for two months. His recovery has been incredible. I’m kind of jealous. I guess I was babied through it. He was taking swings a week after surgery.”

Like Greene, Kreidler is expected to make his MLB debut in 2022.

All three prospects — Torkelson, Greene and Kreidler — should eventually be on the field together for the Tigers this season, just as they were for Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo last season.

“We need these guys to get healthy,” Hinch said, “but we got issues here that we got to deal with before we focus externally. We’re happy that our young players are getting healthier. We need the guys that are coming to the big leagues to be healthy. We want all of our guys playing.”

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

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