Greene undergoes Tommy John surgery

Tigers outfielder expected to be ready for Opening Day

September 21st, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- Tigers outfielder underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday, and is expected to be ready for the start of next season.

Noted specialist Dr. Keith Meister, who has performed the surgery on several Tigers pitchers, performed Greene's procedure at his office in Dallas. Neither Dr. Meister nor the Tigers were sure about what the surgery would require until he went in and examined the damage, but this was the expected outcome and timetable.

“Very optimistic on his return for Opening Day next season,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said on Wednesday, noting sentiment from Dr. Meister. “It’ll be a winter long full of rehab for him, but that was the takeaway from the surgery.”

Because the injury is in Greene’s non-throwing arm, he won’t require the kind of extensive rehab process that pitchers face, or even position hitters who injure their throwing arms. The main concern will be to get him ready to swing at full strength.

Greene injured his elbow making a diving catch against the White Sox on Sept. 1. What was initially hoped to be a bruise became evidently more serious when he woke up the next day with more swelling and discomfort. He had to wait over a week for the swelling to go down before undergoing tests, then visited Dr. Meister in Dallas a week ago. He saw another elbow specialist, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, on Monday in Los Angeles.

Greene’s season ends with a .288 batting average, 11 home runs, 19 doubles, four triples, 37 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a 117 OPS+. Despite being limited to 99 games, his 1.9 bWAR this season ranks behind only Kerry Carpenter (2.4) among Tigers position players. His .287 expected batting average ranked among the top eight percent of Major League players according to Statcast, while his .492 expecting slugging percentage and 91.6 mph average exit velocity ranked among the top 15 percent.

Greene had just started transitioning from a full-time center fielder to more of a corner outfielder when the injury occurred. That transition is expected to continue next season as Parker Meadows makes his bid to stick with the big club as the primary center fielder. With Carpenter, Matt Vierling and Akil Baddoo also likely to return, and No. 9 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy expected to make a push as a third baseman/corner outfielder, the Tigers have a crowded outfield even before factoring in potential additions. Greene, however, is part of the Tigers’ core moving forward.

With that in mind, there’s obvious motivation for keeping Greene healthy. He has had three major injuries in the last year and a half, including a broken foot that delayed his Major League debut last year and a stress reaction in his leg that sidelined him for about a month early this summer. They’re three completely different injuries suffered at different times on different types of plays.

“It’s in his DNA to play hard,” Hinch said. “We’ll obviously have conversations in the offseason after we get through this surgery and after we have a good picture of what his rehab looks like, what moving to the corner means to him, what sprinkling [games] in center means for him. I know what’s in his heart, what’s in his gut and how he’s going to continue to try to make plays, but he’s been on the unlucky side of these injuries. We’ll continue to try to figure out the best way to keep him healthy over the long term.

“It’s not an effort thing. It’s not a mentality thing. He’s not reckless. He’s been unlucky.”