Wanna bet? Tigers’ top pick Jace Jung puts on a show in first BP session at Comerica

Detroit News

Detroit — Spencer Torkelson, the Tigers’ first-round pick in 2020, stood behind the batting cage Tuesday afternoon watching Jace Jung, the Tigers’ first-round pick in 2022, take batting practice on the field at Comerica Park for the first time.

“Tork is a good guy,” said Jung, who played in 30 games at West Michigan after he was selected with the 12th overall pick. “He was back there cracking jokes.”

Jung, a left-handed hitter who hit 39 homers in three seasons at Texas Tech, launched a few into the seats in right field. Torkelson then upped the stakes. He made him a bet: A hundred bucks if you hit one in your last five swings over the shrub line in center field — a blast of more than 420 feet.

Bet on.

“I was a little nervous,” Jung said. “He said five swings and four swings went by. I’d just missed it the swing before.”

He connected on the fifth swing, sending it on a high arc off the bricks, over and to the right of the shrub line. Torkelson high-fived him and then ran back to the clubhouse to get his wallet.

“I think Jace has enough money,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said with a smile. “He doesn’t need to take any of Tork’s. But it was good to see him. It’s a good day. The organization always wants to bring up the higher-level draft picks and show these kids what they’re looking forward to.”

Jung, who signed for $4.59 million, seemed genuinely in awe of Comerica Park, and not just because of its spaciousness.

“I’m just so hyped up right now,” he said. “I think I’m on cloud nine. First time seeing this park, it’s unbelievable. The hitter’s eye. It’s really a beautiful park. Probably one of the best parks I’ve ever seen. Just the atmosphere. You got the Pistons, Red Wings and Lions all right here, so close. It’s beautiful.”

He met briefly with Hinch before he took his swings.

“I told him the next time you’re sitting in my office I will probably be congratulating you on making it to the big leagues,” Hinch said. “He’s got a lot of work to do before that day comes. But he had his family here with him today and he got to celebrate a pretty successful entry into professional ball.”

After his visit to Detroit, Jung hopes he can catch up with his older brother Josh, who debuted with the Texas Rangers on Friday.

“Just amazing,” Jace said. “He’s out there grinding and he finally made the big-league club, made his dream come true of playing on the big-league stage. … Being here like this today, you want to be here. You don’t want to be in West Michigan. You see this stadium and you want to be right here in Detroit.

“Hitting on this field today, like, I’m this close to making my dream come true, too.”

So, is that fresh new $100 burning a hole in your pocket?

“I don’t know, they have me staying at the casino, so…” he said, smiling.

King of the hill

Tigers right-hander Garrett Hill raised eyebrows all across the industry Monday night. Not only did he break out a new windup, he was blowing up the radar gun with his four-seam fastball. His season average, both in his starts and recent relief outings, was 91.3 mph.

In his two innings against the Astros on Monday, he hit 96 mph and sat 94.

“I threw that first one and looked back (at the radar reading on the scoreboard),” he said. “I was like, ‘Really?’”

Most pitchers who have been starters will experience a velocity spike when they pitch in relief. Pitching in shorter stints, they can empty the tank, so to speak. But there was more to this velocity spike than that.

“I think partly it was the extra rest,” said Hill, who has been making two- and three-inning outings every five or six days as the Tigers try to monitor his workload. “But I’ve been working with Gabe (Ribas, Tigers’ director of pitching development) trying to get more out of my lower body.”

Hill watched fellow rookie Joey Wentz throw 6⅔ shutout innings against the Royals on Friday and marveled at the fluidity of his delivery. Last spring, Wentz started taking his hands over his head in his delivery.

“That gave me the idea to ask about it,” Hill said. “He looked so clean going down the mound.”

During his bullpen session Sunday in Kansas City, with Ribas and pitching coaches Chris Fetter and Juan Nieves on hand, Hill tested it out. He threw five pitches off the mound, raising his hands over his head, essentially winding up, before going into his delivery.

“Doing the overhead thing, just keeping my body synced up,” he said. “It felt really good. Everything was timed up. My front side wasn’t going early, which is something I’d been combating for about the last month. I wasn’t falling off to one side or the other.

“It just cleaned everything up.”

Not only was the velocity up, but he maintained the sharpness and command with all his secondary pitches.

“The goal wasn’t necessarily velocity,” Hinch said. “It was to create a little rhythm in his hands. He’s had a hard time separating, which creates drag, which creates bad execution. They’ve been working with him to get more rhythm in his delivery.

“The velo comes from a pretty different job description — throwing two or three innings every five days. So I like both. Whatever he needs to do to be able to execute his pitches. I think his secondary pitches will be even better than the velo with his delivery change.”

Around the horn

Kody Clemens got a rare start for the Tigers Tuesday. The Tigers decided it would be more beneficial for the 26-year-old Clemens to keep developing at the big-league level, even though his playing time would be sparse, instead of him getting relatively meaningless at-bats at the end of a Triple-A season. But with only 111 plate appearances, the club would like him to play winter ball somewhere this offseason.

“That’s up in the air,” Clemens said. “We’ve talked about it. It’s one of those things where if you are 100% in, it’d be good. But if you’re not, it’s not going to be good.”

Clemens is committed to being in three weddings this winter, including his brother’s. He has not ruled anything out.

… Torkelson said he slept just fine Monday night, even though he hit four balls with exit velocities between 105 and 107 mph and got a big, ugly 0-for-4 to show for it.

“I think I earned myself a broken-bat single or maybe a sunball,” he said. “I will let the baseball gods take care of it.”


Twitter: @cmccosky   

Astros at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1


RHP Cristian Javier (8-9, 3.01), Astros: Imagine the luxury of having an arm like this at the back of your rotation. His strikeout rate (32.5%) is in the top 7 percentile in baseball. He’s getting swings-and-misses at a 30% clip — 40.6% on his slider alone. Opponents are hitting just .183 against him.

LHP Joey Wentz (1-1, 4.05), Tigers: He is coming off his first big-league win and by far his best big-league performance — blanking the Royals on two hits over 6⅔ innings last Friday. His cutter and curveball were dynamic pitches for him, made so by the deft command he had with his four-seam fastball.

Articles You May Like

Tigers land the third overall pick in MLB’s inaugural draft lottery
First big move from Detroit Tigers’ Scott Harris shows his blueprint for winning in future
Tigers pitch player improvement at Meetings
Tigers have careful path to tread after Winter Meetings
Detroit Tigers trade reliever Joe Jiménez to Atlanta Braves for two minor leaguers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *