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Greiner handles record tall task behind plate

6-foot-6-inch catcher singles in first MLB at-bat
MLB.com @beckjason

KANSAS CITY -- Grayson Greiner picked up a lot of cheers and congratulations as he rounded first base on his third-inning single Sunday, his first Major League hit in his first at-bat. Once he advanced to second, he got a pat on the shoulder and tap on the helmet from the Royals second baseman.

Whit Merrifield and Greiner were too far apart in age to be teammates at the University of South Carolina, but Greiner watched him play when he was a high-schooler in Columbia and worked out with him in the offseason.

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KANSAS CITY -- Grayson Greiner picked up a lot of cheers and congratulations as he rounded first base on his third-inning single Sunday, his first Major League hit in his first at-bat. Once he advanced to second, he got a pat on the shoulder and tap on the helmet from the Royals second baseman.

Whit Merrifield and Greiner were too far apart in age to be teammates at the University of South Carolina, but Greiner watched him play when he was a high-schooler in Columbia and worked out with him in the offseason.

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"Didn't really expect to play a former Gamecock first game, but that was cool," Greiner said.

The kind feelings only went so far. Merrifield stole three bases on the day, including second and third in the third inning in the Royals' 4-2 win. Nevertheless, it was a big day for Greiner, and a very big day behind the plate for the 6-foot-6 catcher, whose big league appearance now ties him for the tallest catcher in Major League history.

The Tigers called up Greiner, 25, when Miguel Cabrera went on the 10-day disabled list Friday, moving backup catcher John Hicks into Cabrera's spot at first base. With a day game Sunday to close the weekend and James McCann having caught every inning the last six consecutive days, Greiner got the start.

Greiner was with Triple-A Toledo when the call came Thursday night. He was trying to figure out why he was a last-minute scratch from the Mud Hens' lineup that night in Durham, N.C., after his wife, dad and infant son had made the trip up from Columbia.

"I was kind of confused," Greiner said. "Why did I get benched? Then someone said Miggy got hurt. Heart started beating pretty fast. They made me wait out the three-hour game, but it was worth the wait."

Tweet from @tigers: The Greiner family is excited! pic.twitter.com/dSzft02qch

That was nothing compared to his energy level Sunday. Greiner not only had the challenge of facing big league pitching, he had the task of catching left-hander Matthew Boyd, a pitcher he had caught just sparingly in Spring Training.

Together, they produced a decent outing, a three-run third inning dooming Detroit.

"Grayson called a game," Boyd said. "He was awesome behind the plate. He really kept his composure for his debut. I couldn't imagine also calling a game as well as hitting."

Offensively, Greiner's single off Jakob Junis was a solid line drive to left, measured by Statcast™ at 106.5 mph. He just missed out on a much bigger hit in the seventh inning, when he hit a full-count offering an estimated 391 feet to left. The ball sent left fielder Jon Jay to the warning track, raising Greiner's hopes, before stalling short of the fence.

Greiner's look rounding first base was his welcome from Kauffman Stadium.

"I thought I hit that ball pretty good," Greiner said, "but I might have hit it too high. I don't know. I felt good running the bases, and I looked up and saw he was catching it on the track. That was unfortunate, but I was pleased that I was able to get the barrel on it and hit it well."

According to research on Baseball-Reference, Greiner is the third player listed at 6-foot-6 to catch in the big leagues since 1900, joining Pete Koegel (1970-72 Brewers and Phillies) and Don Gile (1959-62 Red Sox). Nobody taller has caught a Major League game.

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