Chicago – The body language told the story.
When Riley Greene walked out of manager AJ Hinch’s office with head athletic trainer Ryne Eubanks Saturday afternoon, with his head down and not speaking, and immediately turned left into the kitchen area and away from his teammates, you knew something wasn’t right.
A few minutes later, Hinch confirmed it. The Tigers placed Greene on the injured list with right elbow inflammation. Most likely, with less than a month left, this will end his season.
Greene injured the elbow while making a spectacular, full-extension diving catch in left-center field in the fifth inning Friday night.
“Last the night the physical exam was pretty good, pretty encouraging,” Hinch said. “The shape he was in this morning, not so much.”
The swelling was extensive, as was the discomfort.
“We went and got a scan that indicated a more significant injury,” Hinch said.
Greene will leave the team on Sunday and go back to Detroit. He will work with trainers and rehab specialist Duncan Evans. Hinch said they will wait seven to 10 days for the swelling to subside and then run more tests.
Hopefully, the subsequent scans will more clearly pinpoint the injury — whether it’s bone or ligament or something else.
“It sucks,” Greene said, sitting in the dugout after watching his teammates go through pre-game batting practice. “There’s no one that wants to be on the field more than me. It is what it is. It happens in this game a lot. I’m just going to do what I can do to get back.”
The news made for a subdued pre-game clubhouse.
“This hurts a lot,” Hinch said. “Riley is one of the guys we look to every night to do something offensively and defensively and he performs. Anytime you lose a bat like that, a personality like that, a presence like that, it’s a tough punch in the gut.”
It’s been a star-crossed start to a career for Greene, who is still just 22. He missed half the season last year after breaking a bone in his foot at the end of spring training. He missed six weeks this season with a stress reaction in his left foot.
And now, his season may end prematurely with an elbow injury.
“He’s pretty upset,” Hinch said. “He doesn’t love how his elbow felt when he woke up and he doesn’t love missing games. And he did it on a play that not many people make. Just another unfortunate incident. But he’s not going to stop being Riley Greene and playing the way that he does or the caliber that he does.
“But it’s tough on him and tough on us when something like this happens.”
Greene understands the odds are against him making it back before the end of the season, but he’s not afraid to take on long odds.
“I am going to work hard to try to get back,” he said. “If it doesn’t line up, then it doesn’t line up. I can’t control that…But I’m going to play this game hard, no matter what. Even though sometimes you might get injured.”
The Tigers aren’t closing the door on Greene making it back, either. And certainly there will be no definitive plan of action until the swelling goes down and secondary scans can be run.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Hinch said. “We know where we are on the calendar and we know what it takes to get back when you have that kind of down time. But we will know more definitively in a week or so. It’s tough timing anytime you get an injury, but it’s extra tough when the calendar is starting to get shorter.”
Greene has played in 99 games and gotten 416 plate appearances. It’s six more games and two fewer plate appearances than he had last year. But he took a huge leap in his offensive production, slashing .288/.349/.447 with a 116 OPS-plus. He hit 11 homers with 37 RBIs.
“He is everything right about what we’re doing and where we’re going,” Hinch said. “And he’ll be back and be right in the middle of everything that we’re doing. He’s still ours.”
The Tigers called-up Tyler Nevin from Toledo to take Greene’s spot on the roster.
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