Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Torkelson says teammate Riley Greene is ‘spark this team needs’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson planned out what he was going to say to center fielder Riley Greene, one of the best prospects in baseball, when his teammate entered the team’s clubhouse at Comerica Park.

Greene, 21, is making his MLB debut Saturday against the Texas Rangers. Torkelson’s message: He wants Greene to soak in the moment and set aside any pressure of trying to do too much.

“He’s a stud,” Torkelson said after Friday’s 7-0 loss, “and he can really help this team.”

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The Tigers have the worst offense in baseball and one of the worst in istory, averaging 2.64 runs per game. Their 24-40 record is third-worst in the American League.

“We’re not playing the best ball right now, obviously,” Torkelson said. “He can mix things up and have a new face in the lineup that can change the game on all sides of the ball. Riley produces, and I know he’s ready.”

Detroit has hit 31 home runs this season — led by Jeimer Candelario and Jonathan Schoop with five apiece — and carries a terrible .587 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Entering Greene’s debut, the Tigers have lost six games in a row and have been outscored 54-11 across the first eight games of the team’s 10-game homestand, which ends Sunday.

“I know he’s excited,” Torkelson said. “I’m really excited for him. He’s well prepared. He’s ready to be here. You know, I think he might just be the spark this team needs right now.”

Torkelson, 22, isn’t doing his part.

He is hitting .178 with four home runs, 23 walks and 56 strikeouts in 58 games. He hasn’t homered since May 18 and is 4-for-47 (.085) with four walks and 14 strikeouts in his past 15 games.

“I learned a lot,” said Torkelson, the 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick. “I learned that nothing’s going to be handed to you. You’re going to have to go out there every day and get it, no matter what the score.”

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Above-average defense at first base has helped Torkelson avoid a demotion to Triple-A Toledo. The same will be true upon Greene’s arrival. The Tigers will let the rookies grind through their struggles at the plate, as long as their defense doesn’t waver.

Greene, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019, hit .274 across 15 games for Toledo this season after fracturing his right foot April 1 in spring training, logging four doubles, one home run, six RBIs, six walks and 14 strikeouts. He also stole three bases.

Greene hit .429 in 11 games in spring training and was supposed to make the Opening Day roster alongside Torkelson, after both played 40 games for the Mud Hens last season.

“He made the team out of camp without that injury,” Torkelson said. “It was really sad to see him after that. I walked in the clubhouse and was like, ‘Are you all good?’ He said it was broken. We had a moment. It was pretty sad, but I’m glad to see that he’s worked hard and waited his time.”

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said he has never seen a team so greatly impacted by a young player’s injury.

“Now, it’s time for him to help us win,” Torkelson said.

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From 14 to 13: What to expect

Once Monday rolls around, the Tigers — and other teams — must cut the number of pitchers on their active roster to 13, one less than the 14-pitcher limit to this point in the season.

The Tigers have 14 pitchers: Tyler Alexander, Beau Brieske, Andrew Chafin, Alex Faedo, Jason Foley, Michael Fulmer, Rony García, Drew Hutchison, Joe Jiménez, Alex Lange, Wily Peralta, Tarik Skubal, Gregory Soto and Will Vest.

“It’s going to be challenging for every team as we go to this configuration,” Hinch said. “In some ways, that will sharpen things around the league. I think everybody needs to take notice on what it’s going to be like having the same rosters.”

Candelario (left shoulder subluxation), the team’s third baseman, is supposed to be reinstated from the injured list Monday, when the Tigers travel to Boston to begin a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

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It’s also the start of an eight-game road trip, from Monday-June 29, with off days Thursday, June 27 and June 30. Those dates without games will allow the Tigers to switch to a four-man rotation until the beginning of July.

That means a starting pitcher is likely to be sent down. Hutchison, filling in for the absent Eduardo Rodriguez, and García could be at risk of losing their spots on the active roster.

Skubal, Faedo and Brieske are locks to stay in the rotation.

“Eventually, when we need a five-man rotation, which is the beginning of July, we’ll obviously have to make accommodations for that,” Hinch said.

Candelario is 5-for-13 (.385) with one home run, one walk and two strikeouts in three games for Toledo as part of his rehab assignment. He is hitting .181 with 11 walks and 47 strikeouts in 52 games for the Tigers.

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

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