Riley Greene called as Tigers offense continues to slide
DETROIT — Riley Greene already had a locker in the Tigers clubhouse on Friday night, two stands away from his good friend and fellow rookie Spencer Torkelson. His Detroit Stars jersey, which the Tigers will wear on Saturday, was hanging in the locker.
The symbolism was hard to miss as the Tigers suffered their sixth straight defeat, this one a 7-0 loss to Rangers at Comerica Park. Even though manager AJ Hinch tries to avoid any hint of Greene coming in to save the moribund Tigers offense, the locker was a symbol that help is on the way.
The Tigers have scored two runs in their last four games, tying their lowest four-game run since 1976. They’ve scored a run in their last 35 innings and haven’t had a hit since Monday against the White Sox . They were outscored by a 43-7 margin on their current slip and a 54-11 gap in eight games of their 10-game home stint throughout the season.
The struggles dropped Detroit 16 games below .500 for the first time since its 47-114 record at the end of the 2019 season. The team has now fallen below last season’s low point before the Tigers’ turnaround from 2021. It’s the first Hinch-managed team to drop 16 games below .500 since the 2010 Diamondbacks.
As Detroit digested Friday’s loss, after being limited to five hits by Jon Gray and two relievers, a sense of Groundhog Day was felt, even as Hinch tried to stay grounded.
“I don’t know if I have [seen anything like this] before, but that’s our reality,” Hinch said. “I try to stay really present with what we’re up against and try to stay as positive as possible, but that [stinks]. I mean, there’s no way for me to have to answer the same questions every night and give credit to the same pitchers every night.
“We are all fed up, but we will wake up with the same challenge. We have to keep trying to do better. I don’t have a better answer. Usually I do, but I don’t. You can’t be this bad for this long. It’s obvious.”
The only difference when the Tigers arrive at the stadium on Saturday is that Greene will be in the line-up, which they expected on opening day before a broken right foot put his Major League debut on hold. . Even though Hinch doesn’t want to use him as a spark, Torkelson thinks he can.
“He is well prepared. He is ready to be here. I think he just might be the spark this team needs right now,” Torkelson said. “He can change a ball game. We’re not playing the best ball at the moment, obviously. Just to mix things up, having a new face in the lineup can change a game on both sides of the ball.
Torkelson is an example of the big jump hitters faced when meeting the Major League pitcher for the first time in a regular season setting, and why expectations need to be tempered. He, too, was a top prospect this year, but faced a steep learning curve against pitchers who can throw almost any pitch for a hit in any count.
“I think everyone has a lot of challenges when called up for the first time, and we see that firsthand from some really exceptional players,” Hinch said. “Like, I wish we could fast forward two, three, four years and look back at these guys and laugh at how much they struggled – not just our guys, but across the league. The ability of these young kids to adapting to this level will come with time, not everyone is a perfect performer right from the start.
One of Greene’s last tests in Toledo, by the way, was another foul ball to his right leg that caused him to hobble. This one hit his shin late in the inning on Thursday night at Worcester, causing Tigers officials to panic briefly. When Hinch called Mud Hens coach Adam Melhuse to see how Greene was moving, Melhuse said Greene replied that the only way he would hit his shin again would be with a bad swing.
This approach was music to Hinch’s ears.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Hinch said. “I come [hope he knows] the weight of the world is not on his shoulders. The success of our attack does not rest solely on him. We have a lot of guys who need to take over. Riley can help us immediately, but if we expect him to be the only reason for an offensive turnover, it’s completely unfair to Riley.