Detroit Tigers’ Riley Greene is confident, comfortable – and poised for a special season

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — No matter where he is, Riley Greene just looks so dang comfortable this spring.

In the Detroit Tigers clubhouse. With his boys. Sitting between Spencer Torkelson and Ryan Kreidler.

It’s the way he carries himself.

Like he belongs.

And he has enough maturity now, enough self-awareness, to be able to step back and see the big picture.

On Sunday afternoon, in his first spring training at-bat, the adrenaline was pumping through him.

“I was so I was so amped up,” Greene said, Monday afternoon. “First game, I’m ready to go. I swing and missed under two fastballs. Those are the balls I usually hit.”

He got frustrated with himself.

“I was frustrated because I know that it’s all up here,” he said, tapping his forehead. “It’s all mental. It’s hey, ‘Riley, slow it down. Breathe. Don’t try to hit the ball 7,000 feet.’”

This is the sign of a confident player maturing before our eyes.

Someone who looks poised to take it to another level and do something special.

“I think (Spencer) Torkelson and Green are both gonna be really good,” Jim Leyland, the former Tigers manager, said. “What happens sometimes is, when you’ve got a couple of rookies breaking in and everything, and sometimes when the team’s not doing good, the focus goes to those guys. It probably puts a little extra pressure on them because the fans are antsy. But these guys are the real deal. Torkelson, I think, is going to be a star. And I think Greene is too. A superstar? I don’t know, but they’re going to be star players. They’re going to be fixtures for a long time.”

That is the vibe that Greene is giving off.

Greene looks like he knows this is where he’ll be for a long time. Like he knows and expects what is going to happen next.

And the more comfortable he gets, the better he’s gonna be.

First normal spring training

Think about the experiences Greene has already had in Lakeland.

In 2020, he stayed in the dorms at TigerTown with Parker Meadows, just to save some money.

Because he’s a frugal kid.

Then, he went out and hit homers in his first two official at-bats.

At the time, he seemed more like a novelty. A face of the future.

In 2021, everything was messed up by the pandemic. Coaches shouted instructions while wearing masks. Reporters were kept in a holding pen behind a yellow rope to keep them away from the players. Players stayed in separate groups on different fields. And everything felt disjointed and distant.

Last year, everything was messed up, once again, because of the lockout. Greene was able to arrive early, because he was not on the 40-man roster. So it turned into one long, massive spring training for him.

Then, he got hurt right before the regular season.

So this is his first normal spring training. With the normal spring training rhythms.

But once again, he’s staying with Parker Meadows and Torkelson.

“It’s going great,” Meadows said. “Riley, let’s see. What have I got on Riley?

He paused.

“He loves Chick-fil-A,” Meadows said. “He could probably eat Chick-fil-A every day. And then Tork? Tork bought a putting mat for the house. He literally putts on it for two hours a day. I’m like Tork, you play baseball dude. You got no shot at golf — figure it out.”

Their friendship is important. The ease they feel around each other.

It’s part of the reason why all of them feel so comfortable.

Greene was in the Tigers clubhouse on Saturday when Meadows started, along with his brother Austin, and then hit a home run.

“It was pretty cool to see him and Austin on the field together,” Greene said. “But it was also cool to see him go way back.”

They root for each other.

Yeah, they rip each other, too.

But that’s what brothers do.

Talk about the best teams, and they usually mention “family.”

And that’s what is growing here.

Willing to do anything for the team

In all likelihood, Greene will be playing center field this season. But the Tigers are going to give him time in the corners, just in case they pick up another center fielder.

Or in case they shuffle things, and Greene’s move makes the entire lineup stronger.

“Does not matter to me whatsoever,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help the team, I’ll do it. If (A.J. Hinch) wants me to play shortstop. I’ll do it. I don’t really care. I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna play hard and I trust him. I trust that whatever he’s doing for me, it’s good for the team.”

Those are not empty clichés.

And there were a couple of interesting points to decipher. First, how much he trusts Hinch. And also, how he is willing to do anything to help this organization win.

Greene is no longer fighting for a spot on this team.

It’s like he can see the big picture, and he understands his role — his massive role — in it.

That, too, is growth.

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