Lions starters open preseason with a roar on offense, whimper on defense

Tigers’ Shane Greene brings heat in bounce-back effort

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Dunedin, Fla. — He’s back.

Not that he’d actually gone anywhere, but the nasty Shane Greene was back in full force here Wednesday.

Greene, who has had his struggles this spring, unleashed his fastball at 96 mph and his sinker was diving and nipping at the bottom of the strike zone in a crisp 1-2-3 sixth inning.

“That was the best Greeney’s looked for sure,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He had good sink on his fastball and he kept everything down.”

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Greene had been touched for five runs and 10 hits in his previous seven innings. His velocity was down, his sinker up and his command spotty.

All of that vanished Wednesday.

“I finally clicked today,” he said. “All spring training I’ve been trying to get my arm to catch up. I finally stopped thinking about it, and it finally caught up. And everything felt good.

“It was just — see glove, hit glove.”

Greene typically gets into trouble when he rushes his pitches to the plate, which is why he was consciously trying to stay back (on his drive leg) longer.

“What was happening, when I tell myself to stay back, I slow my arm down,” he said. “I stopped thinking about that. I just tell myself to drive the ball down in the zone.”

With 10 exhibition games left, Greene knew it was time to get cracking.

“A little bit relieved,” he said. “But at the same time, I knew I’d be all right. I just been overthinking it that last couple of weeks. I went back to basics and everything felt real good today.”

The Tigers are counting on Greene to be a late-inning stopper out of the bullpen this season.

“Greeney, in my mind, should take a step forward this year,” Ausmus said. “Really, I think he can be an elite reliever — not a closer, but a seventh- or eighth-inning guy.”