Detroit Tigers rookie Riley Greene has recaptured groove. Here’s who helped him do it

Detroit Free Press

Before Tuesday’s game, Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch sparked a quick conversation with center fielder Riley Greene.

“Do you know what the theme of the day is?” Hinch said.

“What?” Greene inquired.

“Finding a good pitch,” Hinch said.

Pitch selection is the key to Greene’s success. When the 21-year-old swings at pitches in the strike zone, he becomes an immediate weapon as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter. When he chases balls, he fails to draw walks and strikes out too much. The Tigers have seen both versions of Greene since his MLB debut on June 18, but he is trending in the right direction as August concludes and September looms.

After nearly every plate appearance, Hinch approaches Greene in the dugout and asks him if he swung at a good or bad pitch. The constant dialogue about pitch selection seems likely to continue for the rest of the season.

“That’s been a little bit better for him,” Hinch said. “Elevating the ball a little bit has been good to see, especially to the pull side. But I think it all comes down to getting a good pitch to hit. It’s oversimplified.”

From Aug. 20-30, Greene batted .441 (15-for-34) with two doubles, two triples, two home runs, three walks and nine strikeouts in eight games. From July 14-Aug. 19, a span of 31 games, the left-hander hit .202 (27-for-134) with two homers, three walks and 52 strikeouts.

“I’ve been feeling good,” Greene said. “I’m really trying to relax and not trying to do too much. I’m trying to let things happen to me and not trying to make things happen. I’m focusing on the things I can control: swinging at good pitches and being prepared every single time. The rest of it will take care of itself.”

Greene, during the month-long struggles, swung at nearly half the pitches he saw and started the count 0-1 about 70% of the time. Most of his strikeouts were at the bottom of the strike zone and along the outside part of the plate.

But Greene has been much better recently.

“These guys are dotting (pitches) up and throwing really nasty pitches,” Greene said. “It’s trying to make something out of the mistakes and trying to not miss the mistakes. They might make one; they might make none.”

His best game in more than a month was Aug. 21 at Comerica Park in a matchup with Los Angeles Angels starter Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 American League MVP. Greene homered in the first inning and finished 2-for-2 with two walks in a 4-0 win.

He has multi-hit performances in six of his past eight games and has been the everyday leadoff hitter since the Tigers introduced him to the top of the batting order July 1.

Even when his results were at their worst in mid-August, a product of a swing-first approach, the Tigers didn’t waver from their plan to get Greene as many plate appearances as possible before the conclusion of his rookie season.

“They put their trust in me,” Greene said. “I dug myself into a hole for a couple weeks, but then, I found myself and found my way out. I’ve been feeling better.”

A little more on Greene

Greene — who wanted to play for Team USA like he did at the Under-18 Pan-American Championships in 2018 — has received an invitation from Team Puerto Rico to participate in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, from March 8-21.

He hasn’t committed yet.

“I am Puerto Rican,” Greene said. “Just making decisions. I haven’t agreed to anything yet. We’ll see how things go. … (I was contacted) a little bit ago. That’s all I’ll say on it. I don’t know. I’ve really just been thinking about it, and whatever happens happens.”

Greene’s mother is Puerto Rican, so he is eligible to play for both the United States and Puerto Rico. If Greene joins Team Puerto Rico, he would be teammates with Tigers shortstop Javier Báez and right-handed reliever Joe Jiménez.

Team USA has four outfielders committed: Mookie Betts, Cedric Mullins, Mike Trout and Kyle Tucker.

TRENDING:Javier Báez’s defensive position is another question for Tigers ahead of 2023

Austin Meadows

Outfielder Austin Meadows (soreness) has not played for the Tigers since June 15. He hasn’t played for the organization since Aug. 14 in Triple-A Toledo, before he was pulled off his rehab assignment.

The 27-year-old is working out at Comerica Park but does not seem close to another rehab assignment.

“He did his workout early (Tuesday) morning and took off,” Hinch said. “We’re still sorting through a game plan for him. We’ve not ramped him up to full activity and full days.”

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

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