Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene reacts to injury, missing Opening Day: ‘It sucks’

Detroit Free Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Riley Greene strapped his orthopedic walking boot into place Tuesday morning at of his locker in the Detroit Tigers‘ clubhouse, with a mobility scooter in front of him.

He was supposed to be gathering his belongings for a Wednesday afternoon trip to Detroit for Opening Day, but because of a fracture in his right foot, the 21-year-old prospect is staying in Lakeland for rehab.

“It sucks right now,” Greene said Tuesday. “First couple days, I was bummed. But I’m just trying to take something bad and turn it into something positive. Things happen for a reason. I’m going to be here for however long. I’m just going to be here, working on getting as healthy as possible.”

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Greene will need the scooter for one week and the boot for at least a couple weeks, then the Tigers will reevaluate his injury. He could miss six to eight weeks, keeping him out until June. He will take at-bats, once cleared, in Low-A Lakeland before transitioning to Triple-A Toledo.

He will be the Tigers’ starting center fielder once he completes his rehab assignment. He will play alongside left fielder Austin Meadows and right fielder Robbie Grossman, with Akil Baddoo likely serving as the fourth outfielder.

“This is something you can’t really rush,” Greene said. “I mean, I would like to be back tomorrow, if I could, but it’s something you can’t rush, and I’m going to take my time with it, because you don’t want stuff down the road to happen.”

The Tigers acquired Meadows, a left-handed hitting slugger, on Monday night from the Tampa Bay Rays, trading away 23-year-old infielder Isaac Paredes and the No. 71 overall pick (competitive balance-B) in the 2022 draft.

Meadows’ younger brother, Parker, was drafted by the Tigers with the No. 44 overall pick in 2018. He is starting 2022 in High-A West Michigan. The Tigers selected Greene with the No. 5 overall pick in 2019.

“I’m best friends with his brother,” Greene said. “I’ve met Austin a couple times, and he’s a really good dude. He’s a really good ballplayer. He knows his stuff. He’s been in the league for a few years, so I’m excited to learn things from him.”

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Meadows and Greene embraced with a hug in the Tigers’ clubhouse.

“I feel like every Tiger highlight I saw, it was him doing something — homers, diving catches and all that,” Meadows said. “He had an incredible spring. He’s an incredible player. I’m really looking forward to when he gets back, to be able to play with him. … There’s a lot of young talent on this team.”

Meadows would likely still be playing for the Rays if not for Greene’s injury.

Greene — one day from making the Opening Day roster — fouled a curveball off the inside-bottom part of his right foot Friday against New York Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole. He stayed in the game, drilled a sixth-pitch changeup for a triple and later scored.

“It was a pretty good curveball, toward the inner part of the plate,” Greene said. “To get to it, I rolled my front foot and left it open, and then (the ball) just hit (my foot). Once I got to third, we had like two walks and a couple minutes before something happened, so my foot wasn’t really moving much.

“I was like, ‘Ah, this doesn’t feel right.’ Once I got in (the dugout), I told (the coaches and trainers), ‘Hey, I can’t play right now.'”

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He left the dugout with a trainer, limped down the right-field line and underwent X-rays. The medical results derailed Greene’s excellent spring, caused him to miss the Opening Day roster and forced the Tigers to peruse the trade market for an outfielder.

Greene, who doesn’t need surgery, 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.

This is Greene’s first major injury in his baseball career.

“I mean, I broke a bone when I was like 10,” Greene said. “It’s going to happen to you eventually, one day, it just kind of depends on how you take it, and you just got to come back stronger. … I’ll be ready to go in however long.”

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Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, officially earned a spot on the Opening Day roster Saturday. Torkelson and Greene, close friends off the field, were supposed to make their MLB debuts together on the field.

But Greene must wait.

“It would have been awesome to be together in that moment, but it’s going to be his moment now,” Greene said. “The spotlight is going to be on him for that time. I’m literally so happy for him. He gave me a hug, and I’m really happy for him. I’m definitely going to be watching the first game, that’s for sure.”

A healthy Franklin Perez?

Right-hander Franklin Perez plans to throw a 35-pitch bullpen Wednesday and use all his pitches.

The 24-year-old, a former top prospect, underwent right shoulder surgery May 12 last year, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

“Each positive step is a win for him,” Tigers vice president of player development Ryan Garko said last week, after Perez tossed a 25-pitch, fastball-only bullpen. “You see it, mentally and emotionally, that he’s worked really hard just to get to this point.

“When he starts facing hitters, we’ll go slow. We’ll let his body and his stuff tell us where to send him. But he’ll start here (in Lakeland) facing some hitters when he’s ready, and then we’ll go from there.”

Perez was a prized pitching prospect and considered the centerpiece in the franchise-altering Justin Verlander trade with the Houston Astros late in the 2017 season. Perez has thrown 27 innings across nine games in the minor leagues with the Tigers.

He last appeared in the minors in 2019. He has been sidelined because of several injuries, the latest a right shoulder capsule defect.

The Tigers hope he can pitch in games in May or June.

“We’re all pulling for him,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said last week. “I walked back to the bullpen with him the other day, and he was so happy that he was pain free. That in itself is a success. Now we need to see if his stuff and performance follows. But just getting him on the mound and happy on the mound again, and not worried about rehab, is a good start. We’re all pulling for him. We love the kid.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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