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Greene makes Tigers debut look easy

@beckjason
February 23, 2020

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Riley Greene was worried about winning a high school state title at this point a year ago. On Sunday, he was stepping into the batter’s box against a Major League lefty. In neither case did Greene get rattled. For that matter, at no point did Greene look

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Riley Greene was worried about winning a high school state title at this point a year ago. On Sunday, he was stepping into the batter’s box against a Major League lefty.

In neither case did Greene get rattled. For that matter, at no point did Greene look like a prospect just out of high school.

“I was just going out there and playing,” the 19-year-old outfielder said of his first game in a Detroit Tigers uniform, albeit a Grapefruit League version.

Even for Spring Training, what Greene did in Sunday’s 8-4 win over the Pirates stood out. He declined to chase pitches his first two times up and took walks. He easily scored from first base on a double thanks to a good secondary lead. He drilled a home run over the right-field wall his last time up, then crashed into the same wall for a highlight catch in the bottom of the ninth.

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With general manager Al Avila and much of the front office in attendance at LECOM Park, Greene did everything he could to remind them why they made him the fifth overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft.

“He did a nice job,” Tigers bench coach and split-squad manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a very impressive young man. He’s got a bright future.”

Though Greene, the Tigers' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, isn’t in Major League camp, he made Sunday's trip as an extra player. The Tigers had to field two teams for a split-squad day on the second day of the Grapefruit League schedule, well before players are ready to play nine innings. Minor Leaguers usually fill out the rosters to in the late innings.

Greene was in the game by the bottom of the fourth inning, joining fellow Tigers prospects Derek Hill and Danny Woodrow in what amounted to an outfield line change. Greene led off the sixth inning in a lefty-lefty matchup against Sam Howard, took a big swing at the first Major League pitch of his career, then settled in.

“He threw me one strike,” Greene said, “and I took four pitches after that. I took a good hack at the first pitch he threw me, and then I was like, ‘Yeah, I need to slow down and just hit the ball now.’”

He didn’t put a ball in play until the ninth.

“First pitch I took because it was a slider,” Greene said. “The pitch after that, it was up and out. When I got to two strikes, I shortened up and he threw me a slider low, and I got the bat head out on it.”

The home-run ball was sitting in Greene’s locker after the game. Moments later, Hill came up to him to have him sign another. Considering Hill was the one to warn him he was about to run into the wall on his running catch in the ninth, it’s the least he could do.

“It was awesome,” Greene said. “It was a lot of fun, and hopefully I can do it again.”

Running uphill
Hill had a nice day of his own. Moments after he entered the game, he made a running grab on a Charlie Tilson liner to right-center look deceptively easy thanks to a quick first step and standout speed. An inning later, he worked a full count against Pirates reliever Richard Rodriguez before lining an opposite-field home run over the right-field wall.

It was Hill’s first Grapefruit League home run in his first big league camp. He had been an extra player in three previous Spring Trainings and had a pair of singles last year. He singled and scored another run later in Sunday’s win.

Quick hits
• Non-roster invite Daniel Pinero has made an early impression. He followed his walkoff single in Friday’s exhibition game against Southeastern University with a three-run home run Sunday against the Pirates.

• Non-roster invite Zack Godley, vying for a spot as a swingman on the Tigers' pitching staff, battled through a 36-pitch first inning against the Pirates that included two walks, a sacrifice fly, a ground-ball single and an inning-ending strikeout.

• Free-agent signing Ivan Nova tossed two scoreless innings in Sunday’s 5-1 split-squad win over the Braves. He’ll have a spot in Detroit’s Opening Day rotation.

Up next
Tigers ace Matthew Boyd will make his Grapefruit League debut on Monday when the Tigers host the Astros at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Boyd, a dark horse Cy Young Award candidate, had 232 strikeouts last season, good for a 30.2 percent strikeout rate. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.