'Making them uncomfortable is good': Tigers throw new challenge at Torkelson, Greene
Detroit — Turns out, the debate wasn’t whether or not to promote top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, as well as shortstop Ryan Kreidler, to Triple-A Toledo. The debate was whether to send them as a package or one at a time.
There wasn’t much pushback on promoting them.
“The organization really felt like the challenge was needed for those guys,” manager AJ Hinch said before the game Tuesday. “Getting to the next challenge, making them uncomfortable is good. They have to go to a new clubhouse. They have to go to a new level. Their numbers get scratched off the board and they start fresh again.
“The pressure ticks up just enough and they’re going to have to respond to that.”
Make no mistake, all three players earned the promotion. This is no gimmick. There was nothing left to be gained by finishing the season in Double-A — developmentally.
Greene went 1-for-3 with a two-out RBI single in a 7-1 win over Indianapolis, Torkelson was 0-for-4 but drove in one run with a sacrifice fly and Kreidler was 1-for-2 with a homer and two walks.
“It was just, let’s take advantage of these next six weeks, create a different look for them and see how they respond,” Hinch said.
Hinch talked about how beneficial it was that both Torkelson and Greene took some lumps already this season — whether it was Torkelson struggling mightily all through big league camp or Greene, still just 20 years old, having to deal with status and expectation.
“I’m really glad that Tork had to go through that,” Hinch said. “He’s even referenced it. Now he won’t panic over a bad week because he’s had a bad month before. And Riley’s had to deal with the lovefest that comes with being a top prospect.
“He’s done things remarkably well. He plays a really mature game. But he’s had to respond to the hype and he’s responded quite well.”
More: Promotions leave Tigers top prospects Greene, Torkelson 'hungrier' for Detroit
Triple A will throw a few more things at them that they haven't dealt with yet — mental challenges and physical challenges. They also will have to deal with the inevitable fatigue, as they play through September.
“It’s been a good story with a lot of positive attention,” Hinch said. “Now comes the pressure from being one step away from the best level in the world. I have no doubt those guys have the make-up to handle it.”
It’s not, Hinch made clear, a make-or-break stretch for them.
“The next six weeks won’t define whether they get another opportunity,” he said. “But it will kickstart the next challenge that they have to face.”
A missing star
Trying to prepare for a multiple threat like Shohei Ohtani is tough enough. In fact, Hinch called him “the most difficult player in the big leagues to prepare for.”
You would think Hinch was relieved that Mike Trout, a three-time MVP, was still out with a right calf injury. He was not.
“It’s awful for baseball,” he said of Trout’s prolonged absence. “I appreciate good baseball and good baseball players. We need our stars on the field and playing well. I mean, we will argue they need to play well against somebody other than us, but the game is better when our best players are being promoted and being talked about.
“The game misses Mike Trout.”
Trout, who has been out since May 17, is traveling with the team on this current road trip, though there is no timetable for his return.
Baddoo back soon
Outfielder Akil Baddoo (concussion) and Derek Hill (ribs) did extensive work on the field before the game Tuesday, including a full round of batting practice.
Hinch said Baddoo could be cleared and sent on a rehab assignment to Toledo as early as Wednesday. Hill isn't ready to start playing games just yet.
“Akil has to pass through MLB protocols, and today is his last day of testing,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t had any symptoms whatsoever, really from the onset of the injury. If he can get through today and feel good, we talked to the Players’ Association and the league to get him cleared.
“Then he’s ready to play.”
Tuesday was Hill’s first extensive on-field work.
Both were injured in a collision in left field last Tuesday.
Pump it up
Hinch took a second at the end of his pre-game media session to encourage fans to keep cheering through Miguel Cabrera’s at-bats.
“It gets eerily quiet,” he said. “It almost makes me nervous when I watch. It gets so quiet. Everyone has their phones out recording the moment. Even Miggy stepped out of the box — you almost want to tell them, raise the volume a little bit.”
Hinch said it got so quiet during a recent at-bat that he could hear a fan’s FaceTime conversation behind the dugout out.
“I would encourage the fans to continue to make noise during Miggy’s at-bats.”
Around the horn
Catcher Eric Haase was scratched from the lineup two hours before the game Tuesday with low back tightness. Grayson Greiner got the start.
… The Tigers granted pitcher Buck Farmer his unconditional release Tuesday. He is now a free agent.
… Right-hander Jose Urena, out since July 17 with a groin strain, was scheduled to make his first rehab start at Toledo Tuesday. Infielder Isaac Paredes (hip) also made his first rehab start with Toledo. He'd been in Lakeland.
Angels at Tigers
► First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► RHP Shohei Ohtani (7-1, 2.93), Angels: A lot of nastiness here. You better key in on his 95-96 mph heater because his slider and splitter have been largely unhittable. The split, which he throws between 87 and 88 mph, has generated 55 strikeouts and a 53% whiff rate. Hitters are 7 for 86 against it. Opponents are hitting .167 off the slider with a 34% whiff rate.
► LHP Tarik Skubal (8-10, 4.10), Tigers: He’s pitched 11 scoreless innings over his last two starts with 10 strikeouts and one walk. He’s second to Houston’s Luis Garcia in the rookie rankings in strikeouts and wins. He has an impressive 127-41 strikeout-walk rate. Opponents are hitting under .200 against his slider and change-up, with whiff rates of 31.5 and 46.7, respectively.