Detroit — So far, despite near-daily conversations, the Tigers have resisted sending former No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson, and his .579 OPS, down to Triple-A Toledo.
That doesn’t mean that’ll be the case forever.
“Right now, we’re evaluating that ourselves,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said Wednesday, before the Tigers beat the Cleveland Guardian, 8-2, on Wednesday to sweep the four-game series at Comerica Park. “AJ (Hinch) and I talk about that on a regular basis. Tork is gonna be a good baseball player, he’s gonna be a good player, he’s making himself into, I think, a Gold Glover first baseman. It’s just a matter of time.
“Right now, I’m not sure what we’re going to do, and which way is the best way to go.
“We’re still evaluating that. Time will tell.”
Torkelson, 22, was the No. 1 overall pick out of Arizona State in 2020, and mashed at every minor-league stop en route to making the big-league club out of spring training.
But it’s been a struggle — and inconsistent struggle — this year with the Tigers. He’s played 73 games, and has 45 hits and has 69 strikeouts. He has five home runs and 19 RBIs. He has an on-base percentage of .283, and a slugging percentage of .296. He had a single and two strikeouts Wednesday.
Hinch, speaking on 97.1 on Wednesday morning, said there has been no “full, in-depth conversation” about sending Torkelson down, but acknowledged it may have to happen at some point if things don’t pick up. Perhaps the All-Star break later this month could be a cutoff point.
The problem, Avila said, is if you send down Torkelson, you lose excellent defense at first base. His defense has been a big surprise this season. The Tigers’ infield defense is pretty darn good with Javier Báez at shortstop and Jonathan Schoop at second base.
“If we were to send him to Toledo earlier, could it have been better? Maybe,” Avila said. “At the same time, that pitching’s different … and our defense would be a little bit weaker here.
“It’s about, let’s see if we can get this going here. We’re trying to make it work here as best we can.”
Hinch believe Miguel Cabera, with a top-10 batting average in the American League, deserves to go to the All-Star Game later this month based on his own merits from the 2022 season.
But if that’s not enough, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will have the opportunity to add so-called “legends” based on career achievements, as part of a clause in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that clause this week.
And that, surely, could open another avenue for Cabrera, 39, who this season surpassed 3,000 career hits, and last season surpassed 500 career home runs.
“I think he should be an All-Star in his own right. He’s both,” Hinch said, of Cabrera being worthy for this season and for his career.
“If the commissioner wants to add him as a legend, he’d dead on.”
Cabrera is batting .308 after a single, sacrifice fly and three RBIs Wednesday, though with next to no power. His OPS is .719. He’s an 11-time All-Star, but hasn’t made the team since 2016. If he were to be added as a legend, the Tigers could have multiple All-Stars for the first time since 2017 (Michael Fulmer, Justin Upton).
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, retiring after this season, is almost certain to be added to the National League All-Star roster by Manfred.
The All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 19, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It’s not uncommon to see a position player pitch in a game in which his team is getting blown out. It’s much more rare to see a position player close out a win for his team.
That’s what Harold Castro did Tuesday in the Tigers’ 11-4 win over the Guardians.
It’s the fifth time the Tigers have pitched a position player in 2022, the third time for Castro. You could start seeing it a lot more, Hinch warned, given MLB’s 13-pitcher limit which recently went into place. With all the doubleheaders — scheduled and unscheduled — keeping pitching staff’s fresh is getting harder, but still a huge priority. That’s especially true for the Tigers, given all their injuries.
“The more the position players pitch,” said Hinch, “the more there’s gonna be an outcry.”
Hinch doesn’t have the perfect solution, he said, aside from MLB maybe easing back on the pitcher limits. He liked the seven-inning games for doubleheaders brought about by the pandemic, but those are a thing of the past now, and that’s probably preferred by the fans, Hinch acknowledged.
He suggested maybe there could be a run-lead minimum when you can pitch a position player, like a 10- or 11-run lead, but he also acknowledged that could be cheating the fans.
“It’d be hard to have the mercy rule,” he said. “What if that’s the one game that fan paid to see?”
Aside from Castro’s three appearances, Kody Clemens and Tucker Barnhart each have pitched once.
Tigers at White Sox
Series: Four games, Thursday-Sunday, Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago
First pitch: Thursday-Friday, 8:10; Saturday-Sunday, 2:10
TV/radio: All games on Bally Sports Detroit/97.1
Probables: Thursday — RHP Beau Brieske (1-6, 4.54) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (7-3, 2.51). Friday — LHP Tarik Skubal (5-7, 4.06) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (5-4, 4.90). Saturday — RHP Garrett Hill (1-0, 1.50) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (2-4, 3.30). Sunday — RHP Drew Hutchison (1-4, 4.30) vs. RHP Michael Kopech (2-6, 3.34).
►Brieske, Tigers: The 14th start of the season for the former 27th-round draft pick, he has a 3.78 in six starts since the beginning of June.
►Cease, White Sox: He has 125 strikeouts in 86 innings this season, and he’s 10-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 career starts against the Tigers (2-0 this year).