Greene 'excited to be back out there' after Tommy John

February 26th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager A.J. Hinch used a football analogy for ’s return to game action, saying the Tigers' outfielder was eager to take the red jersey off -- a football term for non-contact status. Still, while Greene had two at-bats as the designated hitter in Monday’s 4-0 win over the Astros, his return to the outfield is set for Tuesday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Greene is expected to start in right field on Tuesday. He played mostly left field last year after Parker Meadows took over in center in late August, but the Tigers would like Greene to play all three outfield spots this Spring Training to keep their options open on potential outfield alignments and late-game moves.

“Got to start him somewhere,” Hinch said.

Greene hadn’t played in a game since Sept. 1, when he injured his right elbow on a diving catch against the White Sox. Ensuing tests revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery. He spent most of the offseason commuting from his home northeast of Orlando to Lakeland for rehab a few days a week, and was cleared to see live pitching a couple weeks ago.

“I was just excited, really, wasn’t really nervous,” Greene said. “Just excited to be back out there.”

He saw plenty of pitches Monday, working Astros starter Spencer Arrighetti for a nine-pitch at-bat that included five foul balls. Greene finally struck out on a changeup below the zone, but he came back with a productive at-bat in the third inning with runners at the corners and one out. Greene got a 1-1 fastball over the plate from reliever Oliver Ortega and hit it on the ground to the right side, scoring Ryan Kreidler from third with Detroit’s first run.

“I think it was a win for me today,” Greene said. “First at-bat, saw a lot of pitches, spit on some good heaters up in the zone, swung at a good changeup. Second one, just late. Just got to get my timing back, and that comes with seeing more pitches. It’s only the first day.”

Brieske impresses in push for bullpen spot
Not only did make quick work of the Astros on Monday, striking out two over two perfect innings on 24 pitches (18 strikes), he showed off an impressive mix for early in camp. His eight fastballs sat at 96-97 miles per hour. His slider was a couple ticks down from last year at 85.4 mph, but with 200 more rpm of spin. His changeup was a couple mph up from his average last season, and drew a couple swings and misses.

“Having multiple pitches is really key for him,” Hinch said. “He got really fastball happy when he got in the 'pen [last year], so he threw his changeup pretty well today. He can miss bats. His stuff ticked up. He held it for the second inning, which was key. As I told him before, those extra pitches are going to be key for long term being considered as a starter, or short term in a bridge role. He got out of the gate hot.”

Where there’s a Wilmer, there’s a way
Though gave up four runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning Sunday against the Rays, he and the Tigers came away with one key positive: His fastball was humming again.

Flores’ velocity was a running topic last year at Double-A Erie, where his fastball was 90-92 miles per hour in stretches rather than his old form in the mid to upper 90s. He spent most of the season and offseason trying to get that velocity back.

Flores’ first six pitches Sunday registered at 98-99 miles per hour on the radar gun at Charlotte Sports Park. Even as his outing wore on and Rays hitters pounced on his slider and changeup, he hit 97 mph with the fastball. Flores said Monday he was around 97 mph in his live BP sessions.

“He showed some impressive stuff, despite not being able to get out of his inning,” Hinch said. “So, a lot to like with Wilmer.”

Quick hits
, who signed last Thursday, is expected to make his Tigers debut on Tuesday at home against the Blue Jays. He’ll be supporting Casey Mize, who makes his first start in 22 months after rehabbing from Tommy John and back surgeries.

loaded the bases with a single and two walks Monday, then retired his next five hitters, four by strikeout.