DETROIT, Mich. (WOOD) — Spencer Torkelson stepped to the plate Tuesday in the second of a three-game set in Houston with a chance to make a statement.
The Tigers 2020 first overall pick taken by the Detroit Tigers struggled in his rookie season of 2022, totaling a .203 batting average with just eight home runs, 28 RBI and 99 strikeouts to 37 walks in 110 games.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the outcome he wanted in his first full season of major league baseball while the Tigers struggled to a 66-96 fourth place finish in the American League Central.
Ready to put all of it behind him, Torkelson had a chance to chip away at the shadow hanging over him with more big hits in big situations in 2023. Situations much like the one he was in Tuesday night in Houston.
The Tigers led the Astros 3-2 in the eighth inning after already winning game one of the series. Torkelson’s good friend and teammate throughout the minor leagues, Riley Greene, was standing on second base, looking to score an insurance run and help put away a series win.
Torkelson didn’t just drive Greene home, he rounded the bases himself after blasting a 424-foot home run to Center field, exiting his bat at 106 mph. It put the Tigers ahead 5-2, and they would go on to win the game 6-3.
The second-year first baseman added to his large day with that homer, going 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. Greene also went 3-for-4 in the same game, bringing the two to a combined 6-for-8.
Torkelson was finally rewarded for his hard contact he’d been producing.
“It feels good to see some of those hits fall,” Torkelson said. “I wasn’t too worried, my process felt great. I was having good at-bats, swinging at good pitches and taking good pitches while hitting the ball hard. So as long as I’m doing that, it doesn’t matter if I’m 0-for-20 or 20-for-20, that’s a win when I’m feeling like that.”
Games like this are exactly what the Tigers envision more of in the future from their two young prospects, who are learning more and more every day at the major league level.
“The guys are so talented and so good that we motivate each other,” Torkelson said. “It’s kind of, how good can we get? Which is contagious. How good can we be and how good can we be today?”
Greene had a much different 2022 season than Torkelson from a personal standpoint.
In spring training last year, Greene fouled a ball off his foot that fractured it and forced him to start the season on the disabled list. He was projected to make Detroit’s Opening Day roster.
After a few months of rehab and time in the minors, the Florida native made his debut for Detroit on June 18. He had a successful rookie season considering the circumstances, hitting .253 with five home runs and 42 RBI.
Through the ups and downs of their young professional baseball careers, Greene and Torkelson have been there to push each other.
“We’ve definitely gotten a lot closer,” Greene said. “We’re like best friends now and it’s awesome to be able to share this moment with him.”
So far, through this season’s seven games, both Greene and Torkelson have found better approaches at the plate. Its leading to more hits.
Greene is hitting .296 while Torkelson is right behind him with a .222 batting average. In the Opening Day 6-3 loss, the two combined to go 1-for-8 at the dish.
Not the result they wanted, but there is another day coming to get better.
“I think right now we can only take care of what is in front of us, not worry about others’ expectations,” Torkelson said. “The crowd was awesome today though, I felt like I came in knowing more of what to expect.”
While both of them having personal success with the Tigers is important, the main goal for both players is to be core pieces of making Detroit a relevant team in the push for pennants and World Series Championships.
The young group is rebuilding the team in 2023. Right now, Torkelson and Greene would just love to win more games and compete day by day, together.
“We were able to gain some momentum in Houston and we’d like to do more of that,” Greene said. “We’re trying to keep it going.”