DETROIT — Spencer Torkelson is heading back to the Tigers, and he’s bringing Ryan Kreidler with him. Manager A.J. Hinch announced Wednesday that the team will call up Torkelson and Kreidler from Triple-A Toledo when rosters expand to 28 players on Thursday.
Torkelson, Detroit’s everyday first baseman for the first half of the season until he was optioned to Toledo at the All-Star break, is expected to get the majority of playing time at first base, but not necessarily the full everyday role. Kreidler, Detroit’s No. 7 prospect, is expected to make his Major League debut on Friday against the Royals at second base and bounce around the infield down the stretch, seeing time at his more natural positions, shortstop and third base.
“They’re not finished products,” Hinch said. “We had the decision on whether to leave them at Triple-A or bring them to the big leagues. We’re trying to create a development process at the big league level where they are going to thrive.”
Mud Hens hitting coach Adam Melhuse will join them in Detroit as an extra hitting coach, working in the batting cage rather than the dugout. Mud Hens first-base coach Alfredo Amezaga will also join the club in the same role, allowing Gary Jones to coach in the dugout following his midseason ankle injury.
Torkelson’s return ends a six-week stint in Toledo, where he was sent to work on his swing after batting .197/.282/.295 in Detroit. The progress came slowly, evidenced by his .229 average and .737 OPS for the Mud Hens, but he hit .319 (15-for-47) over his last 13 games with a home run, nine RBIs and a .941 OPS.
“I think he’s got to continue to make adjustments,” Hinch said. “Certainly left-handed pitching, he’s had no problem with. The right-handed pitching, he’s had still some swing-and-miss, still some issues out over the plate, but I think [his work] has to be finalized here at the Major League level. He started here. He’s part of what we’re doing. He’s part of the future. We want to see if these adjustments that he’s done can continue in the big leagues. We know he’s not a finished product yet, but the work he’s put in has been substantial. The gains that he’s gotten have been OK since, but we hope there’s still more left in there for him to continue to develop.”
Kreidler’s big league call had been anticipated since the season started, but a broken hand suffered in April cost him a month and a half, and a groin injury in June sidelined him for another month. The stops and starts took a toll on his hitting.
“I don’t think I’ve fully gotten back into that rhythm yet,” Kreidler said a few weeks ago. “It’s been a long time with no consistent at-bats. It’s been a really, really mentally draining season for me, but that’s not to say I’m not excited to be here [in Toledo]. It’s been awesome just to be a baseball player again and fall back into that routine.”
He seemingly found that rhythm soon after returning to full-time play; he hit .268 (11-for-41) with five doubles, a home run, four RBIs, five stolen bases and nine runs scored in an 11-game stretch before going 0-for-5 for Toledo on Wednesday at Rochester.
For the season, the 24-year-old Kreidler is batting .213 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and a .763 OPS for the Mud Hens.
“I think you have to be careful not to get caught up on the batting average,” Hinch cautioned, “because he does so much more on a team than a batting average. The reports from the guys there have been that he’s in the best position he’s been offensively. But his spark is going to be his overall package as a baseball player. He does everything pretty well. Obviously the question’s going to be his adjustments to Major League pitching, right-handed pitching and all the things that have been documented throughout his ascent through the Minors. The fact that he’s been healthy, he’s pain-free, he can help on the bases, he can help us on defense, he can play every position in the infield — he’ll be fun to have.”