Torkelson not concussed after being hit on helmet

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The stoic reaction from Spencer Torkelson gave no hint that he had just taken an 88 mph pitch off the left side of his head. That’s a credit to the protective helmet and added flap that he has been wearing all season.

Still, the flushed look on the side of his face, growing redder by the second, showed how much of an impact he had taken just from the flap crashing against his cheekbone, and how quickly it was beginning to swell. Head athletic trainer Doug Teter wasn’t taking any chances, bringing him back into the clubhouse for tests as Jeimer Candelario entered to pinch-run.

Torkelson tested negative for a concussion. As frustrating as Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Royals proved to be, especially with 10 runners left on base and an 0-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position, that news was the best, most important result of the night.

“It’s scary when anybody gets hit up near the head,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Luckily he had that new guard [on his helmet] that guys are wearing that covers the beginning of his chin. I think his shoulder pushed it up and it protected his face. All signs are pointing positive now.”

Torkelson was still being examined after the game and was not made available for interviews.

The Tigers have had plenty of injury woes this season, but even just an inch or two of difference on Keller’s 89th and final pitch of the night — or Torkelson’s reaction — could’ve been disastrous for Torkelson and Detroit alike, both on and off the field.

Despite a slow start at the plate and a struggle to hit for power, Torkelson has become a key part of the Tigers’ lineup. He has shown signs of better at-bats, going 10-for-36 with three walks and seven strikeouts since June 18. That included a two-out single in the second inning Friday. Just as important, his work at first base has stabilized the Tigers’ infield defense. He was 1-for-2 Friday before being hit in the seventh inning.

Opponents have been pitching Torkelson inside more often than he saw in the Minor Leagues or college. Part of that, of course, is the command of Major League pitchers allowing them to be able to pitch inside with less risk of hitting batters. That goes particularly for Keller, who hadn’t hit a batter all season after hitting seven last year.

Still, while Friday marked Torkelson’s third hit-by-pitch of the season, it was the first up around his head.

“I hate that it ended that way, with the changeup that got away from me,” Keller said. “Hit Torkelson, and that’s really tough to see. I’m happy to hear that he’s doing all right.”

Torkelson’s helmet was actually about to fly off from his attempt to get out of the way when Keller’s pitch hit it, knocking the flap into his face.

“I think anytime the ball is at the head, the conservative treatment is going to be to get him out [of the game],” Hinch said. “Tork actually thought the ball hit him in the face as well. He thought it was a ricochet, but it was the helmet coming off and the guard hitting him back in the face. So we weren’t going to take any chances.”

Torkelson will not be in Saturday’s starting lineup, but he could be available off the bench if additional tests show no other injuries, Hinch said.

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