Justin Verlander, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft, gave up four earned runs on seven hits in 5⅓ innings in his MLB debut, back in July 2005.
Sometimes, greatness takes a few tries to click.
Miguel Cabrera, who received one of the largest-ever signing bonuses as an undrafted free agent in 1999, homered in his debut — a walk-off in the 11th, no less — but that came after four weak at-bats over the first nine innings, back in June 2003.
Sometimes, the click takes a few innings.
Alan Trammell, a second-round pick out of high school in 1976, singled in his first at-bat — against the Red Sox in September 1977 — and finished 2-for-3. In the same game, Lou Whitaker, the Tigers’ fifth-round pick in 1975, singled in his first at-bat and went 3-for-5 in his debut.
Sometimes, the click happens right away.
“Tram and Lou,” as they’d jointly be called for approximately 1,900 more games together, are two of just 57 Tigers to pick up at least two hits in their big-league debut.
The latest? Riley Greene, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019 who went 2-for-3 — a bloop to left-center, followed by a 182-foot liner to left — at Comerica Park on Saturday. (If you missed it, you can get up to speed here with the recap from the Freep’s Tony Garcia.)
Sometimes, the click … wait, are we sure there’s a click?
Hello, and welcome to the Riley Greene Newsletter.
(What, you thought we’d be writing about Kody Clemens?)
So yeah, 57 Tigers with two hits in their debuts. It’s a list that includes Harvey Kuenn (the American League Rookie of the Year the following season), Charley Lau (who taught Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett how to hit) and Bill Freehan (whose Hall of Fame snub rivals only Whitaker’s in Tigers lore).
The list also includes Coot Veal (two hits on July 30, 1958, followed by 139 more over six seasons), Gene Lamont (the Tigers’ first-ever first-round pick, who finished with 37 career hits) and Tony Giarratano (four additional hits after a 2-for-3 day in 2005) — deep cuts on the album of “The Tigers’ Greatest Hits,” to be sure.
(While we’re here, six of those 57 Tigers — including a “Ducky” and two different hitters named “Kid” — had their two-hit debuts in the franchise’s April 1901 debut, a 14-13 win over the then-Milwaukee Brewers. And you thought Saturday’s slugfest was unexpected.)
Of course, Greene also had two walks Saturday. The list of Tigers to do that is much, much shorter: just 10, with Lance Parrish the name to know and Zack Short the most recent. (No one did it in the Tigers’ 1901 debut. Go figure.)
And the list of Tigers with two hits and two walks is even shorter: Greene.
That’s it. He’s the list.
In fact, just 19 players in MLB history have done it, including Twins great Joe Mauer and Hamtramck’s own John Paciorek.
A great debut doesn’t guarantee anything, though: Paciorek’s 3-for-3(!), two-walk game for the Houston Colt 45s in September 1962 was the only big-league game of his career.
Greene, at least, got another shot Sunday, going 0-for-2 — with two more walks. That polished batting eye is just one of the reasons the Tigers were eager to take a chance on the Florida high schooler back in 2019. Then again, they had some inside info, thanks to a scout with a special vantage point. (The Freep’s Jeff Seidel has the scoop here on how a CrossFit gym and a softball team made the difference.)
The Weekend of Greene … Greene Days? … Riley-Palooza? … OK, we’re still workshopping the brand, but Greene’s arrival at Comerica was anything but pre-ordained. First, there was the broken foot, which pushed his debut to late June. Though, as the Freep’s Evan Petzold reported here, it could have been July if not for a timely test result for a star-crossed outfielder. (Sorry, Austin Meadows.)
Greene was a bit star-crossed himself just trying to get from WUH-STAH, Massachusetts, to BAW-STUN (where, yes, the Tigers play tonight) to Detroit in time for Saturday’s game, despite getting the notice on Friday afternoon. Our Man Garcia has the inside story on his journey (as well as his parents’ path, which included a stop in Pittsburgh and a drive through Ohio — the HORR-RAH).
But make it he did (in case you skipped the rest of the intro), and nobody was happier to see him than best bud Spencer Torkelson, who had a day of his own Saturday in going 2-for-5 with a double. It wasn’t quite the climactic reinforcement scene from “Avengers: Endgame,” but, as Our Man Seidel observed, the Tigers’ dynamic duo was finally reunited.
Torkelson spoke for most Tigers fans who suffered though the first 64 games of this season with three simple words Saturday: “I missed him.”
Now, let’s see if Greene keeps clicking.
Rock ‘em, sock ‘em Tigers
Greene was the headliner Saturday, but his backup band, “Robbie Grossman and The Whiffers” — you know, the guys who couldn’t hit a Hot-‘N’-Ready if they walked into a Little Caesars? — delivered the jams, with 14 runs — a season high and their most in a game at Comerica Park since hammering, uh, the Rangers for 14 runs on July 19, 2021. Head here to find out why they had manager A.J. Hinch saying, “I’ve been around a long time. I’m not sure that any team has needed it more than we needed something like that,” to Our Man Petzold.
Fetter late than never?
Despite their 21 runs Saturday and Sunday, the Tigers were still outscored 47-28 for the week. Part of that was, again, the anemic offense that managed just seven runs in five losses combined against the White Sox and Rangers, but part of that was a duct-taped rotation and bullpen starting to crack at the seams; the starters posted a 6.42 ERA while relievers combined for a 6.44 mark. (To be fair, the relievers’ ERA was actually brought down by the three position players — Tucker Barnhart, Harold Castro and Kody Clemens — who took the mound; they had a 6.00 ERA in their three innings Wednesday.) Of course, the worse news, according to Our Man Petzold, was the potential departure of pitching coach Chris Fetter for the open Michigan baseball head coaching job. Though starter Tarik Skubal had an answer for that, as Our Man Seidel wrote here: PAY THE MAN.
Farmed and dangerous
Bad hitting. Struggling pitching. Double-digit games under .500 in mid-June. Yep, this is about the time in a Tigers season when we start looking to the minor leagues for hope. Quick, call up Riley Gree… oh. But next year and beyond? Our Man Petzold sat down with Tigers VP of player development Ryan Garko to scout the next wave of prospects. Head here to get the scoop on Dillon Dingler, Jackson Jobe and, yes, old friend Franklin Perez.
Happy birthday, Jake Wood!
Jake Wood, the first Black position player developed by the Tigers, turns 85 on Wednesday. The New Jersey native signed with the organization in 1957 and made the 1961 Opening Day roster as the starting second baseman. (The Triple-A manager who pushed for Wood’s promotion out of the low minors, Charlie Metro, ALSO had two hits for the Tigers in his MLB debut, by the way.) Wood started the season with a bang, homering in the seventh inning of a 9-5 loss to Cleveland in that opener, and finished the season with an MLB-high 14 triples. But it wasn’t all smooth, as his 141 strikeouts also led the majors (and set the big-league record). Still, he finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting, part of a seven-year career with the Tigers in which he hit .250 with 53 doubles, 26 triples and 35 homers in 592 games.
Other Tigers birthdays this week: Ian Kinsler (40 on Wednesday), Chris Shelton (42 on Sunday).
3 to watch
None of these three players had two hits in their MLB debut, but they’re still pretty important this week:
JEIMER CANDELARIO: The third baseman raked in Triple-A and will join the TY-GUHS in BAW-STUN.
Mark your calendar
After 10 games at home, the Tigers will finally get out of Comerica Park and see new places — and some familiar faces. First up, it’s a three-game stint in Boston against the Red Sox and J.D. Martinez. The ex-Tiger is crushing it again, with eight home runs, an AL-best 23 doubles and a .952 OPS in 252 plate appearances. And in a contract year, no less. … (Their opponent on the mound Monday isn’t so familiar; you can get the scouting report on the rookie starter who could struggle against Javier Baez here.) After a day off Thursday, the Tigers head to Phoenix for three games (including a pair of late-night starts Friday and Saturday) against the Diamondbacks, who are managed by ex-Tiger Torey Lovullo. The D-backs enter Monday a distant fourth in their division — hey, just like the Tigers! — but their 32-36 record is something of a surprise considering they won just 52 games in all of 2021.
Cabrera’s first hit — you can read more about it here — came on June 20, 2003, 19 years ago today. Greene was 100 days from turning 3 at the time. Hey, if we’re gonna make Miggy feel old, we’re gonna make you feel old, too.