Shane Greene adds 'electric stuff' to Tigers' rotation
Detroit — It all started with a ping from his cell phone.
It was early Friday morning, Dec. 5, and Shane Greene had been peacefully asleep. He barely opened an eye to check the incoming text message.
"It was just a screen shot of something somebody tweeted," Greene said. "I wasn't even out of bed yet. As I was reading that tweet, one of my other buddies called me and was like, 'Get out of bed, you're about to get traded.' Then two seconds after that my agent called me.
"I opened my eyes and 10 minutes into being awake I found out there was a good possibility I was getting traded."
He went to bed a member of the Yankees and woke up with the Tigers. Greene, a 26-year-old right-hand pitcher, was sent to the Tigers to enable the Yankees to acquire shortstop Didi Gregorious in a three-team swap. The Tigers sent left-hander Robbie Ray and middle infield prospect Domingo Leyba to the Diamondbacks.
Greene, 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 starts as a rookie last season, said it took him about a half a day to process the news and get over any lingering emotional ties to the Yankees.
"It all just hit me so fast," he said. "I had a lot of fun in New York. It was definitely good to be a Yankee last season with all the history with Derek Jeter and everything he accomplished. Those memories I had there were pretty awesome.
"But I am excited for the new chapter and about the opportunity to pitch every five days."
The Tigers have made no bones about that. The expectation is Greene, with 14 major league starts, will be the No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the rotation in 2015.
"We expect Shane to be a part of the rotation," president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said the day the trade was made and repeated during the Winter Meetings last week.
The consensus of the Tigers scouting reports, Dombrowski said, was, "Consistent, above-average stuff. We watched a lot of video on him. We look at him as a guy who can be a very solid starting pitcher at this time."
The Tigers, of course, saw that first-hand Aug. 7 when Greene shut them out on five hits over eight innings. He beat them again 20 days later, this time allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings.
Overall, he struck out 81 batters in 782/3 innings.
"Tremendous movement," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He has a swing-and-miss slider ... that slider has real snap to it. He can get right-hand batters, and he has the ability to get lefties with it."
Funny thing about that slider; he lost it, completely lost it, back in 2011 when he was scuffling in Single A. And, in the process of trying to find it, developed a modified cutter which, for all intents and purposes, rescued his career.
"My first two years of pro ball were pretty challenging, both mentally and physically," Greene said. "I had Tommy John surgery in college and I never really pitched again in college after I had Tommy John. I was drafted a year later after not even pitching in a game.
"So that first year I basically just rehabbed and taught myself to pitch, how to throw all over again."
He struggled through rookie ball and low A in 2009 and 2010 and then at Charleston in 2011, he suffered two serious losses — his slider, which always had been his out pitch, and his control.
In 138 innings, he walked 68, hit 10 and threw 14 wild pitches. Things didn't get much better when he was moved up to high A Tampa in 2012. He walked 63 and hit 10 in 112 innings.
"It was like I was putting too much pressure on myself, I guess," Greene said. "I was trying to make the perfect pitch. Once I learned I didn't have to be perfect to be successful, things started to come a little easier."
Obviously, the Yankees liked his stuff more than he did because they kept promoting him. As wild as he was, he still struck out 229 in 2011 and 2012 combined.
"I just told myself, if I threw everything I pitched for a strike, eventually things would go my way," he said. "I took that mentality and went with it. I started to learn how to pitch instead of just throwing."
Things clicked in 2013. Splitting the season between Tampa and Double A Trenton, he walked 30 and struck out 137 in 1541/3 innings. It was before that season that his search for his lost slider yielded both the slider and the cutter.
"That slider had been my out pitch for the longest time and I couldn't find it, didn't know where it went," Greene said. "So I started playing around with other grips, other slider grips to make up for it and I found something I liked.
"What happened was, I ended up with two sliders," he said. "There was the one I had my whole career, a bigger, slower one at like 81 to 83 miles per hour, and the other one is more like a cutter grip which I throw faster (88 mph).
"Now I have them both and I can use them well off each other. That's been a part of my success."
With his size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and his pitch arsenal, Greene has been compared favorably to Doug Fister. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Greene, like Fister, relies on a sinking fastball, which he typically throws at 94 mph. He mixes his cutter and slider off of the sinker. He rarely used his four-seam fastball and change-up last season.
Brandon McCarthy, Greene's teammate with the Yankees who has since signed with the Dodgers, put it this way: "He has stupid, electric stuff."
Greene isn't aware of his role in the never-ending tempest that was the Fister trade to the Nationals after the 2013 season. But he, replacing Ray, and reliever Ian Krol are the last Tigers remnants of that deal.
Greene, the Tigers hope, will offer a quicker return on investment than Ray, who may still be another year or two away from being Major League ready. But the only trade Greene needs to justify is the one that rousted him out of bed a couple Fridays ago.
"I am not trying to put too much pressure on myself," Greene said. "I am my own worst critic. So I just need to go out and try to get better every day, open up some eyes and hopefully get the opportunity to help this team win a World Series."