After getting called up from Triple-A Toledo on Friday, the 21-year-old outfielder made the trip to Boston to play in his first road series with Detroit. In the second of three games against the Red Sox, Greene went 2-for-4 with two singles and made an impressive catch in center in the Tigers’ 5-4 loss on Tuesday.
“Riley's got a lot of firsts. This is one of the more unique ones,” manager A.J. Hinch said on Monday of Greene’s first trip to Fenway, “but the communication is going to be key. Of knowing where the ball is at all times, and knowing that it can bounce your way as a defender.”
Before a series opener at Fenway Park, members of the visiting team often roam the outfield fielding balls off the wall during pregame work. Hours ahead of first pitch on Monday, Greene got his introduction with bench coach George Lombard before starting in center in the first two games.
Aside from the 37-foot-high Green Monster that stretches from left to center, Fenway, like other Major League ballparks, has its quirks, one of which is a triangular cutout next to the home bullpen that juts out from dead center. On Tuesday night, Greene got familiar with the infamous outfield pocket in a hurry, after a leaping catch and a roll across the center-field padding tucked him right into the corner. The ball came off the bat of Red Sox slugger Rafael Devers, and had an expected batting average of .920.
“Yeah, the different angles are really key,” Hinch said Monday. “Riley figuring out how far he can go back to center, they have that little cutout by their bullpen, and the short fence. The balls to left-center and how they ricochet back towards Riley. Riley’s going to have to be very alert on every play.”
Greene made the leaping snag using just one hand, a noticeable difference from a catch attempt the night before which resulted in the outfielder’s first error. As he sprinted to meet Trevor Story’s line drive Monday, Greene reached out with two hands to snag the ball but instead dropped it, allowing Story to take second. Greene also ran to the ball on his heels, but his manager didn’t attribute the drop to his running style.
“When it's outside your body on the run, it's really hard to catch the ball that way,” Hinch said Tuesday of Greene using two hands. “So I saw more of an issue with that … he runs on his heels anyway, it's not a graceful stride.”
On the offensive side, Greene has reached base in all four of his Major League games, and he is slashing .417/.588/.417 with five hits. His first knock on Tuesday came off Red Sox veteran Rich Hill, who made his Major League debut on June 15, 2005, when Greene was just 4 years old.
Greene tacked on a second hit in the eighth with a single to right field, before Spencer Torkelson and Jeimer Candelario were retired to end the inning. At 109.6 mph, the eighth-inning single marked the hardest-hit ball of Greene’s young career. His previous high of 95.3 mph came the night before on another late-inning single.
With his two hits, Greene became the fourth Tiger and the first since Hub Walker in 1931 to reach base multiple times in each of their first four career games. Though he’s not even a week into his big league career, the highly touted prospect is already showing why fans around the league will soon know his name.