Injuries won’t stop Greene’s hard-nosed style of play

September 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The frustration was evident as  talked about his latest injury, this one to his right elbow on a diving catch last weekend in Chicago.

“It [stinks],” the Tigers outfielder said. “There’s no one that wants to be out there more than me.”

The full extent of the injury won’t be known until this weekend; he had to wait for the swelling to subside before undergoing further examination in Detroit. But it raised the question about the pros and cons of his fearless play in the outfield.

That question isn’t fair, given the different nature of his injuries. It’s also moot, given the way he plays.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m going to always play this game hard no matter what. It stinks that we sometimes get injured.”

Though Greene has suffered three injuries over the last two years, costing him more than 100 games on the injured list, they’ve been three different injuries on different types of plays. The fractured foot that delayed his Major League debut last year came on a pitch he fouled off his foot in Spring Training. The stress reaction in his left fibula three months ago was never tied to a specific play, despite him running into Comerica Park’s center-field fence a couple of days earlier to rob a home run.

The elbow is the first injury Greene has suffered on a dive. When Greene lays out for a ball, he tries to limit the impact by staying low to the ground and spreading out his arms. He calls it a “Superman” pose. That’s what he tried to do on Tim Anderson’s fly ball last Friday, but the nature of the catch put his elbow in position to take a little more pressure.

“I thought I dove pretty normal, in the right way,” Greene said. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong with the dive. I just hit the ground pretty hard.”

Greene clearly felt it as he rolled over following the catch, but still felt well enough to stay in the field for another inning. Not until the next morning, when Greene felt more swelling and discomfort, did the extent of the injury become clear.

“He did this on a play that not many people make,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s another unfortunate incident. He’s not going to stop being Riley Greene and playing the way that he does, the caliber that he does. But it’s tough on him, it’s tough on us when something like this happens.”

One of the best ways to help Greene stay on the field is to have Parker Meadows and his rangy defense in center field. Meadows knows what Greene is going through, having battled injuries his first couple of years in the Tigers farm system. His climb to Detroit took off when he stayed healthy, but he has remained an aggressive player in the field. Expect Greene to do the same.