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Notes: Greene homers again; Perez returns

@beckjason
February 25, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Riley Greene grew up in Orlando watching Miguel Cabrera slug baseballs and Tim Tebow throw footballs. On Tuesday, he shared a field with both of them. He got to high-five one of them. Then he got to match them. As Cabrera crossed home plate on his first

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Riley Greene grew up in Orlando watching Miguel Cabrera slug baseballs and Tim Tebow throw footballs. On Tuesday, he shared a field with both of them. He got to high-five one of them. Then he got to match them.

As Cabrera crossed home plate on his first home run of the spring, there was Greene, 19 years old, waiting for him at the dugout.

“Actually, my dad texted me: ‘Dude, I just took a video of Miggy’s home run and you giving him a high-five,’” Greene said. “That was awesome. I’m going to keep that video probably forever.”

An inning later, Tebow hit his first homer of the spring. A few innings later, with Cabrera and Tebow out of the game, it was Greene’s turn. And if the former first-round pick’s career turns out the way the Tigers hope, fans will be talking about the day they watched him homer in a Detroit uniform as a teenager in a Spring Training game.

If he keeps going like this, they might be talking soon.

“We got him in there, and now he leads the team in home runs,” manager Ron Gardenhire joked. “No big deal.”

With Tuesday’s drive to right-center, Greene has two homers in as many games to go with three walks. As of Tuesday afternoon, MLB Pipeline's No. 31 overall prospect was tied for the Grapefruit League lead in both. He has yet to make an out in five plate appearances. He is not actually a part of big league camp.

Twice, the Tigers have brought him over from Minor League mini-camp to serve as an extra player for the late innings. Each time, Greene has homered.

"If the guy keeps hitting home runs, [the Tigers front office is] not going to let us bring him over here," Gardenhire said. "Because they know we're like, 'We can make a roster spot. I can try. We can figure something out.'"

That has been the running gag ever since last summer, when Greene took batting practice at Comerica Park and homered upon the Pepsi Porch over right field. Tuesday’s homer wasn’t quite as impressive, but it was a launch.

Greene said he sat on the fastball from Mets left-hander Kevin Smith, who had just thrown him a curveball the previous pitch. When he got it, he didn’t miss, sending the ball towards the visiting bullpen.

Greene has no illusions about this tear. He’ll open the season in the Minors, likely at Class A West Michigan. Even if he keeps hitting, he won’t be in Detroit this season. For now, he’s having fun with this.

“I’m out there with guys older than me. These guys I watched on TV when I was like, what, 15,” he said. “It’s just awesome being there. Even if I didn’t play, I would’ve had a great time.”

Franklin returns
The bullpen door opened for the ninth inning Tuesday, and Franklin Perez sprinted out like he was former Tigers reliever Phil Coke. He had to slow himself down before he got to the mound to calm his energy.

But when a pitcher has waited as long as Perez to get into a game, it’s understandable.

The last time Perez pitched in a game, he was pitching for Class A Advanced Lakeland on June 18. He made just two appearances in 2019 before shoulder inflammation shut him down. He has thrown just 27 innings in two seasons since joining the Tigers system as the top prospect in the Justin Verlander trade.

Perez worked all offseason to get healthy for this Spring Training. He threw just 18 pitches on Tuesday, but he felt like it was months of work.

“Honestly, I felt the butterflies in my stomach from the first pitch,” he said through translator Carlos Guillen. “It’s been a while since the last time I was out there on the mound, and it felt very special.”

Perez gave up back-to-back doubles before retiring the next three Mets in order on back-to-back flyouts and a comebacker. His fastball ranged from 92-94 mph, while he mixed in some curveballs.

As he fielded the game-ending comebacker and threw to first, hearing the cheers from the crowd, he had to smile.

“Today,” he said, “was a very special day.”

Quick hits
• Shortstop Niko Goodrum remained out with a sore groin, but could return in the next day or two, according to Gardenhire. He took batting practice Tuesday and will go through workouts Wednesday in hopes of being cleared to play.

• Left-hander Joey Wentz has resumed his throwing program after missing the past week with forearm tightness. He’ll go through a throwing progression before returning to game action.

Up next
Former Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris returns to Dunedin, Fla., this time without the van, for his first start of the spring as the Tigers visit the Blue Jays for a 1:07 p.m. ET contest on Wednesday.

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