New position, same approach: Greene goes all out on catch, pays price

Detroit Tigers

CHICAGO — Just because Riley Greene is playing the outfield corners these days doesn’t mean he can’t make diving catches in the gaps. This one, however, nearly came at a price.

Up until a week and a half ago, Greene would’ve normally been trying to run down Tim Anderson’s fly ball to left-center from the center-field side. Parker Meadows’ arrival from Triple-A Toledo changed all that. The Tigers wanted Meadows’ impact defense in center, and they wanted to see how Meadows and Greene could cover ground in one of the gaps on a given night.

“He’s a very good outfielder. Putting him on the corner will make him even more dynamic,” manager A.J. Hinch said after Friday’s 4-2 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. “He knows exactly where Parker is and Parker isn’t, which is key. Just like he did in center field, he’s going to go at it 100 percent until he can’t catch it. He’s going to sell out until he can’t get the out.”

With Meadows playing a couple steps towards right-center on Anderson, the fifth-inning drive was all up to Greene, who got an accurate read off the swing and took a direct route to cut off the ball.

Greene needed to cover 68 feet to get to the ball, according to Statcast. He ended up covering 71, soaring through the air for the final few feet.

“As a pitcher, you have the best view of the ball every time somebody hits a fly ball like that,” said starter Eduardo Rodriguez, who improved to 4-0 in 10 career starts against the White Sox with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. “As soon as the ball went up, I was like, ‘Ah, no chance he’s going to make that play.’ He surprised me when he dove for it and made the play. That was something special to see.”

The starting position wasn’t the only difference for Greene on that catch. Normally when he dives for a ball, he tries to dive towards the ground to make a catch and spread out his arms before he hits the ground, to help minimize the impact. He calls it a Superman dive, because it looks like a superhero pose when the arms extend out.

This time, he dove more straight out instead of towards the ground. That meant more of an impact when he landed, and his right elbow took the brunt of it.

“He dove and hit his elbow first on the turf,” Hinch said. “And then as he extended, [he] kind of jammed his elbow.”

Replay showed Greene wincing as he rolled onto his back after making the catch. He quickly got up and went back towards the dugout, but continued down the steps toward the clubhouse.

This was one instance where it was fortunate the man who made the highlight catch didn’t lead off the next inning. Greene, who went 4-for-35 over Detroit’s just-completed homestand, had done his offensive damage in the top of the fifth with a two-run single.

It was a case of the White Sox taking their chances with runners on second and third and two outs. Though first base was open with two outs and Matt Vierling on deck, Touki Toussaint chose to throw a steady diet of offspeed pitches to Greene, even after falling behind on a 2-0 count.

Greene swung and missed at a 2-0 splitter below the zone, then fouled off a curveball at the knees. Toussaint tried to follow with a splitter on the outside corner, but got enough of the plate for Greene to send a ground ball through the middle to put the Tigers in front for good.

Greene, who batted .229 for August, began September with his second consecutive two-hit game. His lone out was a fly ball to the right-field warning track. He could’ve had a chance at his first three-hit game since Aug. 16, but Hinch brought in Andre Lipcius to pinch-hit in the seventh.

“He was a little banged up, so we wanted to get him checked out and start the treatment,” Hinch said. “We had him see the doctor that was on the White Sox side, and things are pointing in a positive direction.

“He’s pretty frustrated because he wanted to stay in the game and it was kind of a freak play, but he’s considered day-to-day. He’ll be off tomorrow because of where we are in the season and how important he is.”

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