Greene hits slam for first Double-A home run

Detroit Tigers

Riley Greene had been hitting the ball hard in his first two games for Double-A Erie; he just hadn’t hit it far. That changed in his final at-bat Wednesday, when the Tigers’ No. 2 prospect hit his first Double-A home run in grand style.

Greene, the No. 17 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, turned on a ninth-inning pitch and sent a line drive over the right-field wall for a grand slam, part of a five-RBI performance in the SeaWolves’ 14-2 win at Reading.

The SeaWolves were known for their star-studded rotation the last time they played in 2019 with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo as starters. With 26 runs scored through two games this season, they’re hitting like an offensive juggernaut, with Greene at the top of the lineup. The fifth overall pick from the 2019 Draft has back-to-back 2-for-5 performances, scoring three runs to go with a walk and two strikeouts.

Greene’s two hits on Opening Night included a ground ball hit hard enough that Reading shortstop Arquímedes Gamboa couldn’t stop it despite diving in front of it. After Greene sent an RBI single through the right side Wednesday, he added some launch angle his next time up.

The SeaWolves were comfortably ahead when Cole Peterson’s infield single loaded the bases and extended the ninth inning. The Fightin Phils made a pitching change to set up a lefty-lefty matchup against Greene, who jumped on the first pitch.

The drive looked a little similar to his double for the Tigers in Spring Training against the Blue Jays on March 22. That one was a line-drive double off the right-field wall in Dunedin, Fla., with a 115.8 mph exit velocity, the highest by a Tiger in the Statcast era. His drive Wednesday had a little more altitude.

The 20-year-old Greene is four years younger than the weighted average of position players in the Double-A Northeast, formerly known as the Eastern League. The Tigers bypassed High-A ball to get him there based on his Spring Training and Summer Camp work, and are looking to let him get settled in against advanced pitching before considering him for a promotion to Triple-A Toledo later in the year.

Hinch issues rare free pass
The last time an A.J. Hinch-managed club issued a regular-season intentional walk, Hinch was managing the defending World Series champion Astros, and reliever Hector Rondon was walking then-A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie to face cleanup hitter Khris Davis, who flew out to deep right to keep the Astros’ deficit at a run.

That was Aug. 17, 2018. Lowrie left the A’s for the Mets and signed back this year. Rondon is on his third team since then. Davis is now in Texas. Hinch, who normally has a very good memory, does not remember it, but he leans into his reputation for hating intentional walks.

“Obviously I don’t love it in general,” Hinch said, “because it can bring in other areas of the game.”

Hinch’s Astros went the entire 2019 regular season without an intentional walk, but he did call for one in Game 2 of the 2019 World Series. He didn’t want any part of Juan Soto with first base open and a 3-2 deficit, but the Nationals made him pay with three consecutive RBI singles in a six-run inning that put the game away.

Likewise, Hinch said, he didn’t want any part of J.D. Martinez on Wednesday in the ninth inning of a 3-3 game. However, Martinez’s run was meaningless with the potential game-winning run at third. Hinch was essentially deciding whether to have Gregory Soto face Martinez, who hit a game-tying homer off Bryan Garcia with two outs and first base open his last time up, or Xander Bogaerts. The move worked, though Grossman had to fight the lights to catch Bogaerts’ sinking liner to left to strand the bases loaded after Bogaerts worked a 2-1 count.

“Those guys are both incredible hitters,” Hinch said. “Now, J.D. crushes lefties a little bit more than Bogearts does, so that’s one scenario. But the 2-1 pitch was the most critical pitch of the entire at-bat, because 3-1 then brings in the walk.”

How worried was Hinch about Martinez? Had Soto retired Rafael Devers ahead of him in the ninth, leaving Martinez to lead off the 10th with a runner on second, Hinch said he would’ve intentionally walked him there, too, even with nobody out and a three-run lead.

Tigers place Holland on 10-day IL
The Tigers placed lefty reliever Derek Holland on the 10-day injured list Thursday morning with a left shoulder strain. The move is retroactive to Monday.

Holland was one of the surprises of Spring Training with 9 1/3 scoreless innings and 16 strikeouts to earn a spot in Detroit’s bullpen. He has been searching for that form for most of the season, having allowed 13 runs on 16 hits over nine innings with six walks and nine strikeouts. His velocity has remained strong, but he has struggled to locate.

The Tigers called up right-hander Kyle Funkhouser from the taxi squad to fill Holland’s spot. It’s his first stint with the club this season after pitching in 13 games for Detroit last year.

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