It’s like they just disappeared.
After the Detroit Tigers ended summer camp in Comerica Park and started their season, about 30 players – including many of the organization’s top prospects – moved to Toledo to continue training in relative secrecy behind closed doors at Fifth Third Field.
No one is allowed to watch them. No media. No fans.
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So what are they doing?
They are playing a whole bunch of baseball – doing drills, taking batting practice and holding scrimmages almost every day.
Hall of Famer Alan Trammell continues to work with Spencer Torkelson, the Tigers’ No.1 pick, trying to teach him how to play third base.
Then, after the workouts, many of the players go to their apartments in Toledo and play Call of Duty, a video game.
“Oh, gosh, we grind Call of Duty,” Tigers prospect Riley Greene said. “Me and Frank (Schwindel) play a bunch. Derek Hill. Brady Policelli. (Jorge) Bonifacio is here. Jake Rogers. Tork is here. (Dillon) Dingler is here. Matt Manning. (Alex) Faedo. (Nolan) Blackwood. There is a bunch here.”
That list of players forms a foundation of the Tigers’ rebuild, which brings up another benefit to this unusual situation. These prospects are bonding and developing friendships. After Greene praised Torkelson’s ability on the field – “lot’s of power,” Greene said – he went out of his way to talk about Torkelson a teammate.
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“To be honest, what stands out to me (about Torkelson) is the guy he is,” Greene said. “I mean, he’s a great guy. I don’t have my car here. He offers to take me back to the apartment. He’s like, ‘You want to go get some food?’ Just a good guy.”
Considering Torkelson and Greene could play together for the next 10 years or so – if everything goes as the Tigers hope – that’s probably as interesting a development as anything.
Detroit Tigers top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene take batting practice before the intrasquad game at Comerica Park on July 11, 2020.
Detroit Free Press
Most of the work is done in the afternoon.
“We’ll get there around 12,” Greene said. “We’ll lift some days. We’ll hit in the cage and we’ll go to the field and start our day.”
The Tigers organization is trying to make this situation as productive as possible, getting pitchers enough work in case they are called up to Detroit and giving the prospects enough at bats so that they can keep developing.
But at times, it’s like Little League baseball practice when you don’t have enough players and some of the coaches have to play in the field, just to fill all the positions.
“Depending on what pitching we have, we may have five innings of game to play,” said Tom Prince, the Toledo Mud Hens manager. “So we’ll put all the players out there, and then (Tigers player development director) Kenny Graham will go out to right field and (Mud Hens hitting coach Mike) Hessman will play first and I’ll play second. I’m not putting the gear on anymore. I’m done with that.”
The coaches try to cover everything, including the new extra-inning rule, where a runner is put on second base.
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“We kind of alerted them that this is what could happen if you’re pitching or if you’re playing in the game,” Prince said. “It’s extra innings. They are gonna put a guy out there now. Are they gonna bunt now? (Sergio) Alcantara did it outstanding the other day. He had two bunt attempts. The count went to 2-0. We let him swing. He was hitting left handed. We figured he was going to get a pitch and he triple down the right-field line. You go from moving a guy to have a big inning and we tell them a little bit about that.”
While this situation – an endless string of workouts without any real games – has the potential to get monotonous, Dave Littlefield, the vice president of player development, has been stressing that the organization is watching and paying attention.
“Even though it’s kind of a workout feel, with no fans, no opposing teams, this stuf…