Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene’s Start Could Result in Return to Triple-A
By Ryan Blevins
Detroit Tigers pitcher Shane Greene got off to a slow first inning in his first start and a pitched a poor game on Tuesday. Coming off a down year, Greene may have booked himself a trip to Toledo.
Detroit Tigers starter Shane Greene really struggled last season. This should not be news to anyone. After being demoted to Triple-A Toledo last season Greene discovered he had a blood clot issue that contributed to his struggles. Looking for a resurgence in year two in Detroit, Greene impressed in his first start after settling in following a rough first inning. Looking to build off his six inning, three run performance Greene returned to his 2015 form in his second start.
The Detroit Tigers are only getting more and more healthy as the days go by. A team that was once scrapping the bottom of the barrel for pitching depth now seems well off with more valuable arms than they have had in recent years. Injuries in spring training allowed pitchers such as Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan and Greene an opportunity to showcase their abilities and prove they are viable major league options. The Tigers pitching staff had done a lot right in their first few weeks of the regular season. Even the fifth starter Greene looked to be on track for a bounce back season. Then Greene pitched Tuesday.
Tuesday’s start was difficult to watch for many Tigers fans. In his 4 1/3 innings of work Greene faced 26 batters allowing six hits and seven runs while walking four. Just about everything went wrong for Shane Greene in this one.
Credit the Royals who played a pestering game at the plate fouling off a lot of pitches and being very selective causing Greene’s pitch count to rise. The 27-year-old did not make it easy on himself however showing an inability to get ahead in the count on many batters. Greene relied heavily on his cutter against Kansas City after the pitch worked so well for him during his start in Pittsburgh.
He threw the cutter roughly 44 percent of the game in Pittsburgh while throwing only 11 sliders. Against Kansas City Greene elected to feature the slider more often in an attempt to garner swings and misses. Instead the Royals were not fooled by the sharp bite on Greene’s breaking ball leading to walks that were converted into runs.
Pitch sequence was an issue for Greene. With an inability to locate his four seam fastball Greene needed to rely on his cutter to fool hitters early in counts. When the Royals hitters were not fooled by anything Greene threw it became evident this would be a long night for Greene and the fans watching at home.
The Detroit Tigers front office is going to be faced with a decision in the coming weeks. Detroit announced on Twitter before Tuesday’s game that lefty Daniel Norris would continue his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo. Norris is attempting to come back from a back injury that sidelined him late in spring training. The promising young left-hander showed signs of brilliance last season and could be an asset for the Tigers this season.
With Norris on the fast track back to the big leagues the Tiger will need to decide where he fits on the major league roster, if anywhere. Some have suggested the young starter could remain in Toledo to allow him to continue to master his craft. Others are worried of the absence of a left handed starter in the Tigers rotation and only see the benefits of having the 24-year-old Norris on the Major League roster.
This may be an over reaction and if you are a Shane Greene fan reading this you made think this is foolishness. One start should not warrant this big of an overreaction. Unfortunately, Greene could be the odd man out in the Tigers rotation. If Norris is assigned to Detroit following his rehab start he will almost certainly be slotted into the rotation and not into the bullpen.
While Greene’s arm is already stretched out as a starter and could easily transition to the bullpen the Tigers may not want him to lose the quality innings he would not be able to appear in if relegated to the bullpen. A lowered innings count may not be the worst thing for Shane Greene who says he is still not 100 percent over his blood clot issues from a season ago.
If both Greene and Norris are to stay on the Tigers roster the logical candidate to be sent to Triple-A Toledo is Kyle Ryan. After Ryan’s one inning of work Tuesday he has surrendered five hits and struck out two batters in his five appearances. Ryan is yet to surrender a run though the return of Blaine Hardy leaves three lefties in the bullpen. Based on his handedness alone Ryan is expendable and it would make just as much sense to option him as it would Greene.
Next: Is it time to switch up the lineup?
Greene may get another opportunity to prove himself. His next scheduled start would come Sunday against at home against the Cleveland Indians. Should Greene take advantage of the Indians soft hitting lineup and have a quality performance Tuesdays game could be seen as an off day. If Greene gets knocked around in the first few innings against a Michael Brantley-less Indians team things could turn sour for Greene. Overreaction or not, the ball is in Shane Greene’s court.