Spencer Torkelson and the Worst Debuts in Detroit Tigers History

Mar 17, 2021 - Spencer Torkelson hits a foul ball. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2021 - Spencer Torkelson hits a foul ball. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers fans don’t need to worry about Spencer Torkelson. Spring training doesn’t mean anything, and the jump from college baseball to the big leagues is enormous. He still has all the talent in the world, and he’s probably going to demolish minor-league pitching.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t dig into Spencer Torkelson’s spring training numbers, which are inarguably horrific. The young infielder is 1-for-27 this spring, with 4 walks and 16 strikeouts. That’s a cool .037 batting average with a 51.6% strikeout rate.

How bad is that? In 2019 there were 65 pitchers with at least 30 plate appearances. Just 14 of them had a higher strikeout rate that Torkelson does this spring, and only two had a lower batting average.

Again, none of it really matters. Spencer Torkelson still has all the skills and tools that made him our number 2 Detroit Tigers prospect, and unless every talent evaluator on the planet was wrong, he should get back to doing damage soon.

Torkelson’s struggles naturally led us to think about some of the worst debuts in Detroit Tigers history, so we’ve put together a sad little list for you. Enjoy!

Worst Detroit Tigers Debut Number 1 – Jay Sborz

Detroit Tigers
VIERA, FL – MARCH 09: Relief pitcher Jay Sborz pitches in the ninth. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) /

Poor Jay Sborz. He was Detroit’s 2nd round pick in 2003 (the Kyle Sleeth draft) and toiled in the minors for eight long years. He struggled with injuries and wasn’t terribly effective in the minors, but everything clicked for him in 2009 when he posted 2.27 ERA across three levels. Armed with a fastball that could touch 98 MPH and an above-average curveball, Sborz seemed like he could help the Detroit Tigers. So on June 22, 2010, he was called on in the 3rd inning to provide some relief for an uncharacteristically poor Justin Verlander.

There were no outs and men on 2nd and 3rd when Jay Sborz promptly hit the first batter he faced. He then hit the next batter too, pushing a run across the plate. Sborz managed to get an RBI groundout and a strikeout, but the next three hitters all singled and he was pulled. Brad Thomas allowed a 2-run double to Ike Davis to close the book on Jay Sborz’s night, and his MLB career. He never pitched in another big-league game, so his final career stats are: 0.2 IP, 67.50 ERA, 3H, 5ER, K, 2 HBP.