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Tigers' Avila offers insights on starting spots for Greene, Torkelson

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers general manager Al Avila christened a new season of the weekly Tiger Talk program on 97.1 FM on Thursday night with a couple of tasty bits of organizational insight.

Interviewed by Dan Dickerson and Pat Caputo, Avila projected the starting spots for top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Avila said Torkelson, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, would likely begin the season at High-A West Michigan, while Greene, just 20 years old and the fifth overall pick in 2019, will start a rung higher, at Double-A Erie.

Riley Greene

“Don’t hold me to this,” he said with a chuckle. “A lot of it has to do with how we look at them in spring training and the intricacies of how and when minor league baseball is going to commence. Right now there’s not even a minor-league schedule made.

“But that’s coming. There will be a minor league baseball. I’m pretty sure of that, and we’ll make a determination where to start those guys.”

Still, it’s an indication of how fast Greene is ascending that the Tigers would even consider allowing him to jump to Double-A, bypassing High-A with just 24 games played at Low-A.

Torkelson, 21, has yet to play a professional game. Both he and Greene spent last summer playing intra-squad games at the Tigers' alternate training site in Toledo.

Avila also reiterated his desire to add more veteran starting pitching, even after signing right-hander Jose Urena for one year at $3.25 million. Presently, 2021 rotation candidates include Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Michael Fulmer, Urena, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Daniel Norris and Tyler Alexander.

Norris and Alexander may end up being more useful out of the bullpen and Avila made it clear that neither Mize nor Skubal are locks to start the season in the big leagues.

“They’re at a point right now where they’re very close to establishing themselves at the big-league level,” Avila said. “We’ll see how it goes in spring training. Right now I can’t guarantee you that both are going to make the club or one of them is going to make the club.

“But they’ll have a chance. They might need a little bit more time, or they might not. But they’re close, which is an exciting thing for us.”

Spencer Torkelson

Prospect Matt Manning, whose 2020 season was essentially a washout because of forearm soreness, is also close. But Avila was more definitive that Manning’s starting spot would be Triple-A Toledo.

“At some point he’ll be brought up to the big leagues and get his feet wet,” he said.

Both Avila and manager AJ Hinch have stressed the need, coming off a shortened season that forced drastically reduced workloads for pitchers, to have extra pitching depth through the Triple-A level.

To that end, Avila also said the Tigers, organizationally, were considering a six-man rotation for stretches of the season.  

 “We’ve kicked around ideas for doing a little bit of everything throughout the season, depending on what is needed at the moment,” he said. “We’ll be making adjustments from day one all the way through the end of the season.”

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky