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Greiner gearing up to be Tigers' backstop

At 6-foot-6, Detroit will boast game's tallest catcher
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Matt Moore has thrown to 19 catchers over his eight-year career, ranging from Giants icon Buster Posey to Rangers super-utility man Isiah Kiner-Falefa. If Grayson Greiner becomes the 20th when Moore makes his Tigers debut this year, he'll be an adjustment for the veteran lefty.

It's not about Greiner's inexperience -- it's about his height.

DETROIT -- Matt Moore has thrown to 19 catchers over his eight-year career, ranging from Giants icon Buster Posey to Rangers super-utility man Isiah Kiner-Falefa. If Grayson Greiner becomes the 20th when Moore makes his Tigers debut this year, he'll be an adjustment for the veteran lefty.

It's not about Greiner's inexperience -- it's about his height.

"Just talking with Grayson a little bit, it's going to be weird looking up at him on the mound," Moore quipped last week at TigerFest.

At 6-foot-3, Moore has looked down on most of his catchers, especially during mound visits. At 6-foot-6, Tyson Ross has never had a catcher who wasn't shorter than him. At 6-foot-6, Greiner can look Ross in the eye.

When Greiner made his Major League debut last May, he became just the third player listed at 6-foot-6 to catch in the big leagues since 1900, according to baseball-reference.com. Pete Koegel, also listed at 6-foot-6, started four games behind the plate for the 1971 Phillies and caught a handful of others that year and next. Don Gile caught 19 games, starting four of them, for the Red Sox from 1959-61.

By listed height, according to baseball-reference, Greiner is the tallest player ever to catch at least 30 games in a season, beating out a handful of players listed at 6-foot-5, including Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters and Sandy Alomar Jr.

But height is no concern for the Tigers, nor Greiner. The challenge that he faces is filling the big shoes left behind the plate.

"Greiner's going to be the guy," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We think he can handle it. He did some pretty good things last year. It's his turn. We've got to see what happens and we'll go from there."

The Tigers have had two primary catchers this decade in Alex Avila and James McCann. When Detroit acquired Jake Rogers from Houston as part of the Justin Verlander trade a year and a half ago, the club believed it added its next potential long-term catcher. But when the Tigers non-tendered the arbitration-eligible McCann last November, they created an opening for Greiner to make his case that he can be the next in line.

"Grayson Greiner behind the plate is going to get an opportunity to show us if he can be at the big league level and compete," general manager Al Avila said last week.

Video: DET@KC: Greiner ropes single in first MLB at-bat

The Tigers non-tendered McCann because they knew he wasn't part of their long-term plans. But while Rogers works in the Minor Leagues to find the swing that can allow him to hit big league pitching, he is far from a guarantee.

This is the time to find out about Greiner, now 26 years old and five pro seasons separated from his third-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft.

"I don't want to put any pressure on myself," Greiner said at TigerFest last weekend. "I just want to do what I've always done -- show up, work hard, be a good teammate. The main thing I want to do is develop a really good rapport with the pitching staff.

"If I am in fact the starting catcher, I'm going to have to come out of my shell a little bit. I'm more of a naturally reserved, quiet guy, but I think I can change a little bit, be more of a vocal leader and communicate with those guys, communicate with all our teammates. I'm just not going to put a lot of pressure on myself, just want to have fun with my teammates and do everything I can to help the team win."

What impressed Gardenhire about Greiner was the work that he put in studying the game. Greiner, ironically, credits McCann with helping him realize how much work is involved catching a Major League staff.

"James, he was awesome. I can't thank him enough for showing me the ropes," Greiner said. "He went through something similar when he first got to the big leagues. …

"You have to grind through it. You have to learn how to be a big leaguer, and James was awesome about teaching me the work ethic and preparation and the studying you need to do to be successful. He was amazing and I wish him the best. … We still stay in touch. He's an awesome guy, but he's with the White Sox, so we'll see him quite a bit. He was an amazing role model for me."

Part of that work was getting to know the pitchers he was catching. Greiner already has a working knowledge of most of the pitching staff, but he'll have to learn new arrivals like Moore and Ross.

Moore is already looking forward to the bright side of a big target behind the plate.

"I do need some help down there," Moore joked.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Grayson Greiner