LAKELAND, Fla. — Riley Greene’s exciting crescendo to his MLB debut has come to a crashing halt.
The 21-year-old outfielder suffered a fracture on the bottom part of his right foot Friday, after fouling a pitch off it, and will be out for next week’s Opening Day and beyond. The injury won’t require surgery at this point, Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Saturday morning, and Greene is wearing a protective boot.
“A timeline at this point would be unnecessary,” Hinch said. “I don’t know.”
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The fracture was confirmed by Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist in Wisconsin. The Tigers will take another look at Greene’s foot in a few weeks for further diagnosis.
Greene could be sidelined for six to eight weeks, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press.
“I feel for him,” Hinch said. “He was having a great spring, he was trending all in the right direction. He’s super energetic, great kid, great attitude. He’s taking this news as positive as he can. … Truly disappointed for him and our organization. … It’s disappointing for him specifically because of the work he put in to make a good impression.”
Greene was removed from Friday’s 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees after the third inning. Facing Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole, he fouled a pitch off the inside part of his foot. He stayed in the game, drilled a sixth-pitch changeup for a triple and later scored for the Tigers’ first run.
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Greene left the dugout with a trainer after the third inning ended, limping down the right-field line, and later underwent X-rays and medical tests. He is the Tigers’ No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the No. 5 prospect in baseball.
“Breaks my heart,” Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson said Saturday. “As soon as I found out, I came over and gave him a hug. I wanted to go through this with him. I know how bad he wanted it. He’ll be back stronger than ever. This team can’t wait to have him. We’re a better team with him.”
A healthy Greene projected as the Tigers’ Opening Day center fielder. The Tigers were set to announce he would break camp with the big-league team, a source told the Free Press.
Then, Greene’s foot injury occurred in Friday’s game.
“It was heading that way, I would say,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said Saturday. “Riley wasn’t doing anything to discourage us. Unfortunately, the injury came at a bad time. … Our hope is that he can get back on the field soon, and at that point, we can make another decision.”
Instead of a two-for-one announcement, the Tigers revealed Saturday that Torkelson, the team’s No. 1 prospect, earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Greene is expected to join the Tigers once he is healthy, though rehab assignments will likely come first.
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Greene hit .429 (9-for-21) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, four RBIs, three walks and six strikeouts in 11 games this spring, with a .500 on-base percentage and 1.048 slugging percentage.
Victor Reyes will see increased playing time at center field in Greene’s absence, and Eric Haase and Willi Castro will also take more reps in the outfield. Akil Baddoo is the starting left fielder; Robbie Grossman is in right field.
The team does not have plans to pursue free agent outfielder Michael Conforto, a source told the Free Press. The 29-year-old is the highest profile unsigned free agent. He hit .232 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs in 125 games for the New York Mets last season. His agent is Scott Boras.
“We’re looking at all possibilities,” Avila said. “We really are. We’ve been on the phones for a lot of different areas, actually, to protect ourselves. But I do believe, most probably, the help will come internally from our own guys. … I think, internally, we can handle this.”
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More injury updates
Oft-injured outfielder Derek Hill will start the season on the injured list with a gimpy hamstring. The 26-year-old left Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater with cramps.
Newly signed left-handed reliver Andrew Chafin (groin) will also start the season on the injured list. Chafin, 31, reported groin tightness before Wednesday’s game when he was supposed to pitch out of the bullpen.
Hinch believes both have a chance to return to the Tigers before the end of April.
After Friday’s game, the Tigers optioned catcher Ryan Lavarnway and infielders Ryan Kreidler and Jack Lopez to Triple-A Toledo.
The Mud Hens begin their season Tuesday.
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The Tigers have 36 players remaining in major league camp, including Greene, Hill and Cha. They can take 28 on their Opening Day roster, ahead of Friday’s regular season debut against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.
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