DETROIT -- Rarely does the closer for a team with the second-fewest wins in the Majors have a case for an All-Star Game selection. When he had one of the hottest starts in history for a closer, however, Shane Greene earned a spot.
The Tigers had so many save chances for him in the season’s first few weeks, he could barely take a breath. They’ll now send him to the American League All-Stars to get a chance in a big game. It’s the first All-Star selection for the converted starter.
“Greeney’s definitely been our All-Star, no doubt about that,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “As many games as he’s been in and saved, and without that many save opportunities, he’s done pretty doggone good. He deserves this. He definitely deserves it.”
It’s a great individual honor for someone who doesn’t like to focus on them. And when Gardenhire told him he had made it, it created a little bit of an emotional moment for someone who doesn’t like to reveal them.
“I was happy,” Greene said. “I’m not the best at showing my emotions when it’s good emotions, so … I was happy.”
While the Tigers were playing low-scoring games and battling around .500 for the first month of the season, Greene was a workhorse, converting those pitching duels into victories. He was the first pitcher ever to record seven saves in his team’s first 10 games of a season, and his 12 saves by the end of April set a franchise record.
Though the save chances have waned since mid-May, Greene has been just as tough. He hasn’t given up an earned run since his 13th save of the season on May 3; his lone blown save in that span came May 23 against the Marlins, after an error extended his inning for a Garrett Cooper grand slam.
“It was more impressive when he was saving games like every night, like nine days in a row, or nine out of 10 days,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what’s really impressive, that he can do that, and he wanted the ball. We’re not giving him enough opportunities, and [we] just have to pitch him in non-save situations just to get him innings now. We’d rather have it the other way, trying to figure out when we can get him a break from getting saves. But he’ll take the ball no matter what, and he’s been impressive all summer long.”
While the Tigers ended Sunday with 27 wins, Greene has saved 22 of them, second among AL pitchers. His 28 games finished ranks fifth.
Greene is the second consecutive reliever to represent the Tigers at the Midsummer Classic. His setup man, Joe Jimenez, went last year. Unlike Jimenez, who found success in his first full Major League season, Greene has had a longer road here, breaking into the Majors in 2014 as a starter, battling injuries, then converting to relief in 2016.
When he would work out in the offseason, he said, he would joke that he was preparing himself for the All-Star Game the next summer. It’s not a punchline anymore.
“I’ve worked my tail off to get here, and I’m not done yet,” he said. “Every day you wake up is the first day of the rest of your life. Just gotta keep it that way.”
The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.