Riley Greene hits fifth for Tigers; Rony Garcia’s success linked to slider

Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers top prospect Riley Greene arrived on the scene Saturday and reached base safely four times to help propel Detroit to a 14-7 win over the Texas Rangers, snapping a six-game losing skid.

Greene registered two singles and a pair of walks working out of the sixth spot in the lineup. On Sunday, however, he batted fifth, right in the heart of the order.

The rookie walked twice in four plate appearances in Sunday’s 7-3 victory over the Rangers, but didn’t register a hit.

“I don’t know where Riley’s going to hit every time,” manager AJ Hinch said before the game. “This lineup without (Miguel Cabrera) in it kind of changes the configuration. … I think there’s no doubt that our hope is Riley is a middle-of-the-order bat to a top-of-the-order bat, depending on where I slot him in.

“The trick is when to do it and when to bestow the most at-bats that your team’s going to get on a young player. I probably could have put him in the one or two slot (Saturday) and it wouldn’t have fazed him because that’s the way he is. But easy a man has always been successful for me with young players that have the potential that he has.”

Greene’s easy-going attitude and laid-back approach is also appreciated by Eric Haase, who’s seen the 21-year-old at a few different points this offseason.

“He’s just a ballplayer, man,” Haase said. “I’ve seen him at the alternate site, I’ve seen him a little bit in Toledo. I’ve seen him in spring training. He just quietly goes about his business (and) gets a couple hits.

“Nothing is a big deal to Riley. He plays good defense. We’re definitely excited. Hopefully, he’s a staple in this lineup.”

Greene’s arrival has also done good for fellow rookie Spencer Torkelson, who made his pro debut on Opening Day this season.

“(Greene and Torkelson’s) relationship is obvious,” Hinch said. “They’ve talked about it. … I think what is probably under-talked about or understated is that Tork probably hasn’t had a lot of guys that he relates to in the clubhouse.

“And that’s not saying people aren’t taking him under their wing, they are. I watch him with pitchers, I watch him with position players, but 21, 22 years old is pretty young to be in a major-league clubhouse and trying to navigate your way through breaking into the big leagues. And now he’s got his boy with him.”

Torkelson, who came into Sunday’s game batting .184 on 211 plate appearances, stepped it up over the weekend, going 3-for-9 with a double and three runs scored.

But the positive energy doesn’t just flow in one direction. Hinch said the presence of them together helps both youngsters.

“Ironically, everyone is crediting Riley with the one that’s going to make Tork relax and feel better about himself, but I think it’s mutual,” he said. “Companionship is important in the big leagues. I put them next to each other in the lineup (Sunday); I don’t think it’s always going to necessarily be that way, but I believe in it.”

Garcia relying on slider to get Ks

After starting the season in the bullpen, Rony Garcia has worked his way into the rotation and has started in the game in each of his past five appearances.

In that time, he’s posted a 2-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, punching out 24 batters to just 12 walks, an accomplishment he credits to his slider.

“It gave me a lot of confidence because I have a pitch that I can throw at any moment in the pitch count,” he said through a translator before Sunday’s game. “In the first pitch, or ahead of the count or behind the count.”

Hinch called Garcia a “good surprise” this season and said he’s been commanding his breaking ball a bit better as of late.

“He’s one where I think experience will help his confidence,” Hinch said. “He’s challenging some guys, and he’s realizing if he can get into leverage counts it’s a lot easier than falling behind. So, if he’s not walking people and you get to leverage counts, you have the opportunity to strike out guys.

“He’s been a nice boost for us because he didn’t have a role on the team that was very well defined. This opportunity for him to showcase his stuff at least a couple of times through the order has been very effective.”

Working out of the bullpen is a different game than starting on the bump, and Garcia said he’s had to adjust his game to fit into his new role.

“(When starting), you have to be smarter and change the sequence of the pitches,” he said.

Garcia is back in the starting role after beginning the year in the bullpen. It’s an opportunity he’s grateful for, and one that he can use what he learned as a reliever to try and do better.

“It makes me happy because being a Rule 5 player, I was able to be a starter,” Garcia said. “(But) then I was sent to the bullpen, Down there in the bullpen I learned a lot of things and it made me better for now being a starter again.”

Two catchers to start

Haase got the start behind the play in Saturday’s win, but on Sunday, he’ll be the designated hitter with Tucker Barnhart being the one catching for Drew Hutchison.

Playing two catchers is an approach Haase forced due to the success he’s had in the batter’s box.

“Haase is earning some playing time, it’s really no more complicated than that,” Hinch said. “He’s a good DH, a good bat when he’s swinging inside the strike zone, we’ve seen that his last couple of game.

“It’s just part of the deal. … Whatever it takes to win today’s game we’ve got to do, and it includes Haase’s bat.”

Although Haase didn’t log a hit Sunday, he was 7-for-16 in his last five games coming into the day with four RBIs and a .983 slugging percentage.

Around the horn

► After Sunday’s game, Hinch said Hutchison is getting DFA’d due to him “getting unlucky with the roster spot.” He also added Hutchison could make his way on the 27-man roster with some doubleheaders coming up if he clears. Hutchison pitched 4⅔ innings and allowed three runs on four hits in his longest outing since he tossed five innings for the Rangers on Aug. 17, 2018.

► After Saturday’s win, the Tigers are 16-2 in games where they are leading after six innings and 19-2 in games where they are leading after seven.

► Miguel Cabrera and Kody Clemens were both originally out of Sunday’s lineup after combining for four hits and three RBIs on Saturday, but Clemens was inserted into the game for Harold Castro in the sixth inning after Castro got hurt. Hinch said postgame that Castro got “smoked in the leg” just above his knee in the hamstring area, but then started to feel tightness in his calf. Hinch said Castro is “going to be fine” and called the injury a “bruise,” while also adding it’s a day-to-day issue for now.

► Sunday is the last home game for the Tigers until July 1. They will travel to play Boston, Arizona and San Francisco over the next two weeks. Detroit is 17-22 at home this season and 8-18 on the road.

On deck: Red Sox

► Series: Three games at Fenway Park, Boston

► First pitch: Monday-Wednesday 7:10 p.m.

► TV/Radio: All three games on BSD/97.1 FM; Wednesday also on MLBN (out of market only)

► Probables: Monday — RHP Josh Winckowski (1-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Alex Faedo (1-3, 4.28); Tuesday — LHP Rich Hill (2-4, 4.42) vs. RHP Beau Brieske (1-5, 3.79); Wednesday — RHP Michael Wacha (5-1, 2.28) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (5-4, 3.13).

Scouting report

► Winckowski, Red Sox: Wincksowski, a rookie, is set to make the third start of his career Monday against the Tigers. In his last outing, the righty pitched five shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics allowing just four hits. He also struck out three.

► Faedo, Tigers: Also a rookie, Faedo has started eight games in his major league career. The Florida product hadn’t given up more than two runs in a single game all season, until his last appearance against the Chicago White Sox, where he was tagged for seven. He holds a 2.92 ERA when removing that last performance.

rsilva@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Rich_Silva18

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