Tigers move Greene to bullpen, promote Farmer for rotation
St. Petersburg, Fla. — A borderline bizarre 2015 season has become even more complicated for Shane Greene.
The Tigers have moved Greene to the bullpen following yet another rough start, Sunday against the Red Sox, when he was socked for 11 hits and five runs in 4-1/3 innings. He will be replaced, at least temporarily, by rookie right-hander Buck Farmer, who will start Friday against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
"We're hoping short stints will allow him to get back on track," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said before Monday's Tigers-Rays game at Tropicana Field, which the Rays won, 5-2.
Greene has a 6.72 ERA and .308 opposing batting average in 16 starts, ugly numbers for a pitcher who began the season with three starts in which he didn't allow an earned run.
"The stuff we've seen, going back to his time with the Yankees, can be electric at times," Ausmus said of a pitcher the Tigers got last December in a three-team deal. "Right now, we're not quite seeing the same pitcher.
"I think a lot's going through his head. One thing about the bullpen is you can control more who he faces."
In other words, the Tigers hope to use Greene in friendlier situations against right-handed batters, who are hitting .242 versus .364 against left-handers.
Farmer has had several short stays with the Tigers since he first arrived late in the 2014 season. In 16 starts at Triple A Toledo, Farmer had a 4.15 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and a .251 opposing batting average.
In many ways, it doesn't add up.
His fastball still sears. His slider moves. And yet Bruce Rondon is stuck with an 8.25 ERA, which is no way to win a closer's job the Tigers would love to hand him in 2016.
But it won't happen, nor will a late-innings role be secured, if a power pitcher with his repertoire doesn't do better than he did in his latest outing on Monday.
In a game the Tigers were hoping to steal, Rondon turned Tampa Bay's 3-2 eighth-inning lead into a 5-2 lead. He did it by handing Steven Souza a leadoff walk, which two batters later was followed by Curt Casali's second home run of the night, a roof-scraping drive against a Rondon 98-mph fastball.
"Just command," said Ausmus, acknowledging that Rondon's in-and-out performances can be, at best, perplexing.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila's perspective from behind home plate is that Rondon has to tighten up.
"It's not that hard to figure out," Rondon said, explaining that Rondon can, in fact, occasionally get away with bad location because of his pitches' velocity.
But when he misses — as he did on the walk, and on a high fastball that Casali clubbed — a potential powerhouse pitcher can have an ERA of 8.25.
The Tigers have been hit by their share of bad bullpen stints in 2015. Rather surprisingly in the eyes of a team that was looking to him as a shutdown reliever, Rondon has contributed his share.
Cabrera, Lobstein progressing
Ausmus said the Tigers are pleased with Miguel Cabrera's convalescence.
Cabrera, out since July 4 with a damaged calf, originally was expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
"I'm optimistic it'll be on the short side of that," Ausmus said of his team's superstar slugger.
Cabrera has been steadily improving and has been swinging a bat as he heals and deals with restlessness from his first-ever stint on the disabled list.
Another player on the mend, left-handed pitcher Kyle Lobstein, was at Tropicana Field after he drove from the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla.
Lobstein has been on the disabled list since May 24 because of shoulder issues.
He threw a Monday bullpen and expects to next pitch a simulated game ahead of leaving for a minor league rehab start.
Lobstein was traded to the Tigers from the Rays in 2013 in a deal that brought to Tampa a catcher named Curt Casali, who Monday walloped a pair of home runs.
It has been quite a year for Drew Smyly, who was drafted by the Tigers in 2010, arrived in Detroit in 2012 and pitched effectively until he was traded a year ago this week to the Rays.
Smyly made three starts in April for the Rays, then was shelved with shoulder problems. He has since bounced back and Sunday made his first minor league rehab start ahead of what's expected to be an August return to the big club.
"It was pretty devastating," said Smyly, who avoided surgery that, at one point, was a potential option.
Doctors, though, agreed surgery wasn't necessary for an injury Smyly still has problems detailing.
"I don't know, shoulders are very tricky," he said, standing outside the Rays dugout. "It was a labrum, you could say. Another doctor said I might have bruised my rotator cuff."
Smyly said Sunday night's start for Triple A Durham was encouraging, even if he allowed four runs in 2-1/3 innings.
"I was throwing in the 90s," he said. "The only thing now is building strength back up."