BOSTON -- Around this time a year ago, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sat down and had a talk with Shane Greene about his role on Detroit's pitching staff. Greene began the season in the rotation before a blister forced him onto the disabled list for about six weeks. Michael Fulmer
BOSTON -- Around this time a year ago, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sat down and had a talk with Shane Greene about his role on Detroit's pitching staff. Greene began the season in the rotation before a blister forced him onto the disabled list for about six weeks. Michael Fulmer earned his chance while Greene was away, and well, that was that. Greene was on his way to the bullpen, where some felt he best fit all along.
Sometime earlier this season, Ausmus had another talk with Greene. This one was a little more complicated. He was already a reliever, and had shown the potential to be a pretty good one. But despite that, and despite the struggles up and down the rest of the Tigers' bullpen, Ausmus didn't have a role to offer him.
That's the thing. As well as Greene had responded, Ausmus didn't necessarily want a role for him.
"I said, 'I'm going to use you when I think we need to use you. It might be in the fifth. Most often it's going to be in the seventh, maybe the eighth,'" Ausmus recalled.
On Thursday, with Fulmer reeling from six hits in a seven-batter span and a blown lead to the Angels, it was the fifth. With add-on runners at the corners, one out and C.J. Cron up, Ausmus called on Greene, who retired Cron and Ben Revere to end the threat.
That's all Ausmus wanted from Greene, who had warmed up three times the night before. The game got out of hand against Arcenio Leon and Daniel Stumpf, but Greene's job was complete.
"He did exactly what we wanted," Ausmus said. "First and third, down a run, he kept it right there and gave us a chance."
A night later, Greene was warming in the bullpen at Fenway Park to pitch the seventh after Jordan Zimmermann survived six innings. Again, Greene did his job, allowing a two-out double but protecting a one-run lead. Again, disaster followed his departure, with the Red Sox pulling ahead off Alex Wilson, but Greene's role was filled.
This is how Ausmus wants to use Greene, situationally rather than in a set role. Instead of stretching Greene, Ausmus wants Greene available in different situations from game to game, in as many games as possible. It goes against the traditional bullpen mindset Ausmus normally has, but he feels it takes advantage of Greene's flexibility.
"Some guys like to know exactly when they're going to pitch. Greenie just wants the ball," Ausmus said. "Generally it's going to be later in the game. [On Thursday] -- and it's not the first time I'd done it -- it's a situation where I felt like we had to keep the score right where it is in order to win it and go from there.
"I don't know if there's a shift [in mindset]. I think there's some pitchers that are capable of doing it, and I think there are some managers that are willing to do it."
Greene has pitched every inning between the fifth and the 11th at some point this season. His 30 appearances entering Saturday ranked him one off the American League lead. He's averaging fewer than a full inning per appearance. His 1.57 ERA ranks seventh among AL relievers, and he has stranded 24 out of 28 inherited runners, including his last 11.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.