Greene is on point as change-up stumps Cards

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Short and to the point.

But for a brief lapse in the third inning, that was Shane Greene's method Saturday — both during his five-inning stint against the Cardinals and his postgame presser.

"I felt really good," he said, after the Tigers beat the Cards 4-3. "I just needed to throw more strikes."

Well, of his 90 pitches, 58 were strikes. And of those 32 balls, 21 were thrown after he retired the first two batters in the third inning.

"Had two outs and then walked two guys in a row," he said. "That can't happen."

Both of those walked batters scored, one on a hard single by Randal Grichuk and two more on a pop-up by Matt Adams that was dropped by Anthony Gose in short centerfield after he was bumped by shortstop Jose Iglesias.

That three-run (one earned) glitch was the only blemish on his three-hit, six-strike out performance.

"One rough inning," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He got out of sync when he went to the stretch. Overall, his stuff was excellent."

Greene was asked if he lost concentration for an instance in the third.

"No," he said. "It happens. I have to do my best to make sure it doesn't."

Later, after another attempt to draw him out on the subject, Greene said, "I had a chance to have a quick inning and I blew that. Other than that, I felt good."

Greene didn't have to talk about his stuff — it was evident to any who watched. His slider was a menace to right-handed batters and left-handers, who hit him at a .286 clip last season, were vexed by his ever-improving change-up.

Asked if being tougher on lefties was a point of emphasis this spring, Greene said, "I don't care if they are right-handed or left-handed. I am just trying to get them out."

Yeah, but lefties have had success against you in the past.

"If they are in the box, I am trying to get them out," he said. "Easy as that."

The one concession he made on the point was that he has been working on the change-up.

"It's starting to come around," he said.

There were four left-handed batters in the Cardinals lineup and Greene allowed one hit to the lot of them — a single by Jon Jay who was thrown out by right-fielder J.D. Martinez trying to stretch it to a double.

He struck out all three lefties he faced in the first inning — Jay, Kolten Wong and Matt Adams.

"We want him to use his change-up more," Ausmus said. "It helps him become more effective against left-handed hitters and he threw some really good ones today. But his cutter and slider are his A off-speed pitches."

Around the horn

Shortstop Jose Iglesias played nine innings Saturday and he went 1-for-3 at the plate. But he may have set a spring training record on Friday. Sent to the back fields to get some extra swings against minor league pitching, he got 20 at-bats in about 30 minutes, Ausmus said. He was going from field to field and just inserting himself into the game. He went 6-for-20 with one bunt single.

…Right-hand pitcher Bruce Rondon woke up Saturday with a stiff neck. He is scheduled to pitch Sunday in Clearwater but Ausmus said that would depend on how he felt in the morning.

…Left-hander Kyle Ryan, who got four outs on Friday, pitched to one batter Saturday – left-hander Matt Adams — and struck him out. Ausmus is considering Ryan, a recently-converted starter, as a situational lefty.

…Ian Krol, also battling to be a situational left-hander in the bullpen, Pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky