The Tigers’ offense was, in a word, appalling. It is 27th in the MLB in batting average and dead-last in runs and home runs scored
Miguel Cabrera, who is a net negative on the basepaths, is the only hitter with more than 150 plate appearances to bat over .257. Only nine of his 58 hits were for Extrabases.
Things are looking bleak for Detroit. But it will be reinforced on Saturday in the form of top outfielder Riley Greene, who should have an opportunity to open the season at the Tigers alongside Spencer Torkelson. A broken foot prevented him; Now, two months later, he’s getting his shot.
“We’d love for him to show up and be a spark right away,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I think it will bring energy to the clubhouse. Everyone was anticipating his arrival and I’ve never seen a club be more affected by a young player’s injury than Riley.”
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What are Riley Greene’s stats?
Greene has played 17 games with the Minors so far this season: two at Lakeland (single-A) and 15 with Toledo (triple-A). In that span, he’s posting .279/.347/.382 on a home run. While he’s not fielding the .308/.400/.554 numbers he had at Toledo last season, the Tigers seem encouraged by his progress this year.
“I think the wish and hope for guys is that they dominate and tear up a league that makes it obvious when there should come a time when he’s going to be called up,” Hinch said, per MLB.com. “I think he competes well. He swings the racquet very well. He commands the zone. He runs the bases.”
Why is Riley Greene making his debut now?
The decision to play Greene now is well ahead of schedule. It was in response to outfielder Austin Meadows being placed on the COVID-19 list, opening up an outfield roster spot for Greene. The Tigers are struggling to find an outfield configuration that works for them this season, so Greene will look to make an immediate impact.
“It was a matter of days before he was called up,” Hinch said. “So it fits. Unfortunately, we lose Austin in the process. But what a journey for Riley to get the call.”
What was Riley Greene’s injury?
Greene broke his foot while chasing a ball in before MLB Opening Day on April 1.
“I was like, ‘I feel pretty good, feel good on the plate, and then something like this happens,'” Greene said last week, per The Athletic.
Greene was drafted fifth overall by the Tigers in 2019 (a draft that saw Adleyrutschman and Bobby Witt Jr. finish 1st and 2nd respectively) and immediately showed his talent in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .351 and had an OPS over 1 before hitting nearly .300 in low-A ball with Connecticut. 2020 hampered his progress but he was extremely impressive in 2021 with Toledo.
What to expect from Riley Greene?
Greene, a left-hander, will join rookies Torkelson and Kody Clemens in the Tigers’ lineup on Saturday. He will bat against Texas for sixth.
The Tigers are looking to add some much-needed power to the lineup with Greene, who hit 24 home runs at Triple-A levels last year. While it will take time to adjust to major league pitching, Greene sees the ball well and knows when to pinch or expand his striking zone. However, as with any hitter who hits for power at lower levels, expect to see some strikeouts early on when he figures things out.
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Greene’s base running is also incredibly impressive: He stole 16 bases on 17 attempts last year, so third base coach Ramon Santiago may have him in motion early to support the league’s low of .19 stolen bases per game.
Ultimately, Greene’s Tigers will seek a Julio Rodríguez-style production. It’ll be a tall order, but they clearly believe he’s ready to take the next step, even though Meadows’ absence has hastened his call-up.
Taylor Hearn is scheduled to get the ball for the Rangers Saturday, so Greene will face a left-handed pitcher in his first-ever MLB start. Greene is the rare lefty who hits lefties better than righties. In 2021 he shortened .368/.466/.574 against lefties. He was .275/.355/.519 against right-handed pitchers.
Greene will start in midfield in his first game for the Tigers, with Rony Garcia taking the mound for Detroit.