Detroit Tigers’ Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson give world glimpse of future in middle of lineup

Detroit Free Press

HOUSTON — Riley Greene, Mr. 414 Feet, stood in front of his locker in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse, talking about Spencer Torkelson, Mr. 424 Feet.

“It’s nice to know that Tork is hitting behind me,” Greene said after the Tigers’ 6-3 victory over Houston Astros on Tuesday night, their second straight win over the defending World Series champions. “If I get on, it’s a good shot that he’s gonna do some damage.”

“So, he did mention his went farther than yours,” I said.

Greene hit a long home run in Monday night’s victory.

But Torkelson’s homer on Tuesday night screamed 10 feet further.

“Did his go on top of the train tracks?” Greene asked.

Greene’s homer did, indeed, land on top of the train tracks beyond the left-field wall at Minute Maid Park.

Torkelson’s homer didn’t reach train-track level.

“OK, but mine went on top though,” Greene said. “Just keep that in mind. It looks cooler because mine went on top.”

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I looked across the clubhouse at Torkelson, who was sitting at his locker.

“So no reaction over there,” I said. “He’s stoic.”

“Did you hear that, Tork?” Greene yelled across the clubhouse.

“What?” Torkelson asked.

“Nothing,” Greene said. “It’s good.”

No doubt.

This is almost too good to be true for the Tigers.

Greene batting third, Torkelson batting fourth.

And hearing them talking trash about their homers.

Because that means they are both hitting homers. This is what the Tigers envisioned when they drafted these two as first-round picks in 2019 and 2020. This has been the plan all along. Because these two players represent the future of this organization.

“Well, they’re important,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I mean, we’ve said it over and over and over again. We’re watching these two guys mature, and they’re doing it together, and there’s a lot of growth left, and these guys are learning that they can they can play here. They can do some damage. They continue to put up good at-bats. I think they’re building some confidence. I think they love hitting back-to-back. I don’t know if they will all the time but it’s nice to see those guys to take a step forward.”

And they are taking it together, of course.

Making massive improvements

To be fair, all of this trash-talking is all for fun, and it comes from a place of deep respect.

“Riley is so good,” Torkelson said. “And it’s just cool to get a front-row seat to what he can do in the box.”

“I don’t care what anyone says — Tork rakes,” Greene said. “I see him in the cage every single day. You know he’s working his butt off. When he’s hot, he’s hot.”

And there’s no question Torkelson is hot right now — he also had a double among his three hits Tuesday. He has scorched the ball since arriving in Lakeland almost two months ago, even if his stats don’t always show it.

“He’s a good player and and we showed a ton of confidence in him because he’s a good player and he’s coming in a really good place,” Hinch said. “Mechanically, he’s hunting good pitches, and he’s not missing them. He’s taken whatever they give him. I mean, some of them are singles. This one was a big homer pull-side. He’s hit the ball as hard as any player on our team in the first five games. So mentally and physically, he’s developing nicely.”

His development comes from his approach.

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Torkelson’s struggles in 2022 have been well documented.

But he is no longer worried about results.

He’s far more concerned about his process.

“I think the biggest thing is just getting away from being results-driven and just being absolutely process-driven,” he said.

That’s a fancy way of saying this: He’s far more worried about having good swings and not worrying where the ball goes. In a glove, finding a hole or over the fence.

“My process is good,” Torkelson said. “I’m seeing the ball well, hitting the ball hard. You keep doing that over 600 ABs, you look back at the end of the year, and I’m sure I’m sure you’re gonna be happy with what you see.”

Total team effort

After struggling in Tampa, the Tigers look like a totally different team.

“It shows that we didn’t panic whatsoever,” Torkelson said. “We had good at-bats in Tampa, but to be honest, they just beat us.”

They have been lifted by Greene and Torkelson, not to mention Matt Vierling. But it has been so much more than that.

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It’s Ryan Kreidler making impact plays at second base.

It’s relief pitchers coming in and holding leads.

It’s hits coming from all over the batting order.

It’s being aggressive on the bases.

It’s making plays on defense.

“I just liked how our guys came in and were able to flush the first series and play well against a good team in a tough place to play and outplay them for a couple games to win the series,” Hinch said. “We can get greedy (Wednesday).”

And when all the trash talk was done, Torkelson put it even more succinctly.

“It’s team,” Torkelson said. “Total team wins, and it’s so fun.”

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Contact Jeff Seidel at jseidel@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

To read Seidel’s recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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