LOS ANGELES — Tigers outfielder Riley Greene will undergo surgery on his injured right elbow on Wednesday, but the Tigers won’t know the extent of the repair until Dallas-based specialist Dr. Keith Meister goes into the elbow and sees the damage.
It’s a bit exploratory, similar to Tarik Skubal’s situation when he suffered a forearm injury last summer. But there’s a sense of optimism that Greene has avoided a worst-case scenario.
“Obviously, we need to get through the surgery,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s been seen by multiple doctors, and they’re going to give us the update whenever they go in and have the surgery. …
“We do feel good about it. Riley left in good spirits yesterday. We’ll see him again in Detroit after the procedure.”
The Tigers hope to have an update later Wednesday or Thursday.
Greene injured his elbow making a diving catch against the White Sox on Sept. 1. What was initially hoped to be a bruise became evidently more serious when he woke up the next day with more swelling and discomfort. He had to wait over a week for the swelling to go down before undergoing tests, then visited Dr. Meister in Dallas a week ago. He saw another elbow specialist, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, on Monday in Los Angeles.
Greene’s season ends with a .288 batting average, 11 home runs, 19 doubles, four triples, 37 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a 117 OPS+. Despite being limited to 99 games, his 1.9 bWAR this season ranks behind only Kerry Carpenter (2.4) among Tigers position players. His .287 expected batting average ranked among the top eight percent of Major League players according to Statcast, while his .492 expecting slugging percentage and 91.6 mph average exit velocity ranked among the top 15 percent.
Greene had just started transitioning from a full-time center fielder to more of a corner outfielder when the injury occurred. That transition is expected to continue next season as Parker Meadows makes his bid to stick with the big club as the primary center fielder. With Carpenter, Matt Vierling and Akil Baddoo also likely to return, and No. 9 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy expected to make a push as a third baseman/corner outfielder, the Tigers have a crowded outfield even before factoring in potential additions. Greene, however, is part of the Tigers’ core moving forward.
With that in mind, there’s obvious motivation for keeping Greene healthy. He has had three major injuries in the last year and a half, including a broken foot that delayed his Major League debut last year and a stress reaction in his leg that sidelined him for about a month early this summer. They’re three completely different injuries suffered at different times on different types of plays.
“It’s in his DNA to play hard,” Hinch said. “We’ll obviously have conversations in the offseason after we get through this surgery and after we have a good picture of what his rehab looks like, what moving to the corner means to him, what sprinkling [games] in center means for him. I know what’s in his heart, what’s in his gut and how he’s going to continue to try to make plays, but he’s been on the unlucky side of these injuries. We’ll continue to try to figure out the best way to keep him healthy over the long term.
“It’s not an effort thing. It’s not a mentality thing. He’s not reckless. He’s been unlucky.”