Players in Triple-A Toledo were aware of the timeline.
Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon called a team meeting after Wednesday's game in Rochester, New York. Major League Baseball rosters expanded by two players Thursday, and the Detroit Tigers planned to promote at least one position player from Toledo.
"We thought we'd figure out who was going up," infielder Ryan Kreidler said.
Instead, the Tigers promoted two position players: Kreidler, for his MLB debut, and first baseman Spencer Torkelson. A member of the Mud Hens' coaching staff tapped Torkelson on the shoulder to invite him into McClendon's office, where he received the news of his return to the big leagues.
Then, Kreidler was summoned into McClendon's office.
"Lloyd said some really nice words to me," Kreidler said Thursday, standing in the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park. "It's a conversation that I'd like to keep private, but it's a really, really special moment. He told me I was going to the big leagues."
After that, Kreidler, 24, phoned his parents, brother and grandparents. He packed his bags, slept at the team hotel, got in the car at 4:30 a.m. for Thursday's flight to Detroit and arrived in the Tigers' clubhouse around 9 a.m.
The fourth-round draft pick in 2019 out of UCLA wasn't in the lineup Thursday but will start Friday against Kansas City Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch. Torkelson will start Friday, too.
"I didn't think I was going to cry doing it," Kreidler said of the conversations he shared with his family. "It was one of those moments, where it's a culmination of a lot of work. You never know in this game. You never know what's going to happen. There's no guarantees. Everything is earned. I'm really proud of that."
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 25, 2022
What Kreidler's promotion means
Kreidler was supposed to join the Tigers earlier this season.
He put himself on the radar with a breakout performance last year in Double-A Erie and Toledo, smacking 22 home runs over 129 games. Entering 2022, the Tigers were eager to figure out if Kreidler profiles as an everyday starter or a utility player at the highest level.
"He does it all," said Riley Greene, a 21-year-old rookie who debuted in June. "He hits. He defends. He hustles. He's got the mentality of a winner. He hates to lose. He's going to go out there every day and give it his best. ... He's a great teammate, too. He's always going to be the first guy at the top of the step trying to give you a high five. He deserves it. He deserves every single bit of it."
— Toledo Mud Hens (@MudHens) August 25, 2022
Two injuries — a fractured hand and a groin strain — limited Kreidler's activity for most of this season in the minor leagues. He batted .213 with eight homers, 36 walks and 72 strikeouts in 56 games for Toledo.
Kreidler is the Tigers' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
"I was never putting it on a clock or a timer," Kreidler said. "Everybody's timing is different. As much as I would have liked to have been up earlier, it is what it is. Just some bad luck, but the fact is, I'm here. It's really rewarding to be here. I'm very proud of this."
In August, Kreidler posted a .198 batting average with two homers, 20 walks and 34 strikeouts across 25 games. The strikeouts concern the Tigers, especially since he has struggled against right-handed pitchers, but his overall package as a player allowed for his promotion.
"I want them to understand the urgency that has to happen in the big leagues," manager A.J. Hinch said. "There's a comfortable environment we're trying to create for them to learn and grow. There's a reality that we don't just try hard at this level. You have to compete and have success to be in the big leagues and have a successful team. That's a tough balance."
Now, Kreidler must demonstrate he can adjust to MLB pitchers. To stick around, he needs to handle upper-90s velocity with movement and showcase extra-base power against breaking balls and off-speed pitches.
"It's really cool to see Kreidler up here," said Torkelson, a 23-year-old who made the Tigers' Opening Day roster but was demoted at the All-Star break. "You guys probably can imagine how hard he works, but we see it first person. He works extremely hard. He always has. And he's a winner. I like being teammates with winners."
If Kreidler is an everyday player, he would provide a significant boost to the Tigers as a new general manager tries to build a playoff team in the coming years. His primary position is shortstop, but he can handle second base and third base. Looking ahead to next season, the Tigers could rely on Kreidler, Javier Báez and Jonathan Schoop at those three infield positions, assuming third baseman Jeimer Candelario, despite his team-high 12 home runs, is nontendered this offseason in his final year of salary arbitration.
For Friday's debut, Kreidler will start at second base.
"We're trying to pour a foundation of these guys for next season, specifically the younger guys," Hinch said.
Kreidler's plus defense, which has been praised by Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammel, makes the utility role a viable fallback option if he doesn't hit enough to be in the lineup on a daily basis. But that's for the Tigers to decide, and they'll learn plenty about Kreidler — and other young players — in the final month of the season.
"I'm just trying to enjoy today and take every day individually," Kreidler said. "The minute you start looking forward and trying to achieve certain result-oriented things, that gets in the way of your process. I'm going to enjoy every day and work hard and play hard every day."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What the Detroit Tigers want to see from Ryan Kreidler