Tigers top pick Spencer Torkelson has impressive display of power at Comerica Park
Detroit — Tigers rookie Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, made a good first impression Saturday on the second day of Summer Camp at Comerica Park.
Torkelson, donning a No. 73 practice jersey, took the field and after some light stretching, got in the batting cage for the first time in his future home. Torkelson signed his contract for $8.4 million this week, which included a record-setting signing bonus.
After Miguel Cabrera headlined a group in the cage, it was Torkelson’s turn.
In his first round, he got loose, but by his fourth and fifth rounds in the cage, he was flashing some of the power that has the Tigers envisioning him as the franchise’s power hitter of the future.
The right-hander got a couple over the left-field fence, with general manager Al Avila looking on from directly behind the cage.
In his final round, Torkelson took only three swings but blasted one to the wall in center field and two more into the seats in left field, approximately 10 or 15 rows up. Playing at Comerica Park won’t be much of an adjustment for Torkelson, who played at Arizona State.
The outfield dimensions at Phoenix Municipal Park, the home field of the Sun Devils, are 345 feet in left and center field and 410 feet to straightaway center field. At Comerica Park, it’s 345 feet to left, 420 to center and 330 to right field.
It was an encouraging power display for the top pick, who made the Tigers’ 60-man player pool, but isn’t likely to make the final 30-man main roster that is slated to begin the season July 23-24. He’s more likely in line to be on the 30-man taxi squad, which will work out in Toledo.
After hitting in the cage, Torkelson met manager Ron Gardenhire and took some grounders at third base — his projected position as a pro — and had only one bobble.
“This kid is a really exciting baseball player,” Gardenhire said Saturday. “This organization had a great draft and all these guys that we picked up seem like really good players and that’s where we want to keep going.”
With a 60-game schedule expected to start later this month, it’s going to be hard with only three weeks of Summer Camp to get ready for the speed of regular-season games. Most teams are planning to have intra-squad games to allow their players to get back in game shape — but with some dangers, as the Yankees had Saturday, featuring a scary play with Masahiro Tanaka being hit in the head by a ball off Giancarlo Stanton’s bat.
The Tigers are planning a few intra-squad games, but also a couple against another team, Gardenhire revealed Saturday.
“We’ve worked on that, to play a couple exhibition games with a team before we start (the regular season). I’m not going to announce (who). We’re going to play four or five intra-squad games, (weather permitting),” Gardenhire said, with the caveat that he didn’t want Avila to get mad at him for releasing details too early.
It would likely be against a division rival, with a team that’s geographically close, such as the Chicago White Sox or Cleveland Indians.
Although the Tigers have gotten through the first two days with no issues related to COVID-19, there’s a looming realization about what the dangers could be. Players are still making their decisions about whether they want to play this season, including former Tigers pitcher David Price, who is now with the Dodgers. Price announced Saturday that he won’t play this season because of the pandemic.
Angels star Mike Trout also has been outspoken about his thoughts on playing during the pandemic. Gardenhire noted the ongoing concerns and how it’s not an easy choice for anyone involved.
“Everybody has to make their own decision. The Tigers are trying to do everything we possibly can to keep this as good a situation as possible, just like every other ballclub,” Gardenhire said. “For me to stand up and say I wouldn’t do it, I’m going through it myself. I want to be here; I also know the risk. I worry about those (risks) and I’m sure every player comes in here thinking about the same thing.
“If a guy decides he doesn’t want to play, I respect that; if a guy decides he wants to do this, I respect that too.”
For Gardenhire, it also will mean adjusting some of his routines as a manager during games. He’s known for expressing himself to umpires, including eight ejections from games last season. Gardenhire says hell try to tone it down this year.
“Just yelling out of the dugout. I know so many of these umpires and they know why I do it. When I go out and argue, they can throw me out of the game; I want my players to stay in the game,” he said. “That’s what that’s all about. I can’t argue at home, so I’d better get it out of the way when I’m working.
“I won’t be coming out of the dugout and kicking dirt or anything like that out of respect for umpires and the proximity of how close we can be to them — but I still can yell from the dugout.”