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Top pick Spencer Torkelson on Joey Bart’s struggles: ‘The talent level, that’s not the issue’

© Stan Szeto | 2022 Jun 28

The Barry Bonds plaque. The Giants posters. The Pac Bell Park wall his preschool teacher painted. Even as a Detroit Tiger, Spencer Torkelson’s childhood bedroom still looks the same.

Torkelson spent the Monday off-day at home in Petaluma, where he got to see his french bulldog, Bubba, and spend time with friends and family.

As a kid, Torkelson remembers sliding down the Coca Cola bottle in left field. For some reason, the mascot Lou Seal scared the then-five-year-old. He attended Game 7 of the 2012 National League Championship Series, when Marco Scuatro soaked up the rain. He counts Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner as some of his favorite players.

When Torkelson takes the field at Oracle Park on Tuesday night, he’ll be doing so in front of his mom, dad, brother, grandma, uncle, former coaches and an estimated 500 others rooting for him. Practically the entire town of his native Petaluma will be rooting for their Giants and their Torkelson.

“It’s awesome,” Torkelson said from the visitor’s clubhouse. “Just really fulfilling, growing up and going to so many Giants games. I always dreamed about playing on this field. As a Giant then, but now as a Tiger, I’m really excited to be able to play against the Giants on this field.” 

The 2020 first overall pick, though, will be the only former top young prospect in action, as Joey Bart continues his reset process with the Sacramento River Cats. 

Earlier this month, the Giants sent Bart — the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft — down to the minors for a mental reset. The catcher was in a 2-for-25 rut and had struck out in 45.4% of his at-bats overall. 

Torkelson, who is hitting .193 on the year for the Tigers, knows firsthand how challenging it can be for any young player — no matter how heralded — to break into The Show. 

“Gosh, there’s definitely a little bit of a learning curve,” Torkelson said. “I’ve seen Joey play a lot. The talent level, that’s not the issue. I heard a good analogy – it’s like you’ve got the car, you just need to learn the road map. Nothing’s wrong with the car. You’ve just got to learn your way around.” 

The 22-year-old Torkelson doesn’t have the pressure of being Posey’s successor. The Tigers are also not expected to contend this year, minimizing at least some of the spotlight on him. The first baseman also only spent one year in the minors, so expectations should be tempered to start. 

But Torkelson still had to learn how to deal with failure, something he and Bart have in common. 

Bart is working on simplifying his approach at the plate, as detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, but spending time in Sacramento should help Bart’s mental as well. 

“Really the biggest thing is just maintaining confidence going into every single at-bat,” Torkelson said. “Because if you lose your confidence going into an at-bat in the major leagues — any at-bat, really, at any level — you’re screwed. Really maintain confidence and trust in that, with time and with experience, you’re going to get the hang of it. Because the talent, the skill, the work ethic, it’s all there.”


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