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Rare off night for Greene throws bullpen into mini-spin

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Kanas City, Mo. — The television cameras might have caught reliever Shane Greene in an animated moment Monday, but it wasn’t anything Tigers manager Brad Ausmus hadn’t seen before.

“Shane gets emotional,” Ausmus said. “He vents all the time in the dugout.”

Ausmus faced a tough decision in the sixth inning of the Tigers 10-7 win over the Royals. Greene, who has been as reliable as any pitcher in the bullpen, was summoned to start the bottom of the sixth inning with the Tigers up 6-3.

He hadn’t given up a run since May 16 and only three runs all season. But three of the four batters he faced reached Monday. With the bases loaded and left-handed hitting Alex Gordon up, Ausmus decided to use left-hander Blaine Hardy.

Greene clearly was peeved, but he handed the ball to Ausmus on the mound and walked off without a word.

“He just handed me the ball,” Ausmus said. “He’s emotional. He gets animated at times. But he just gave me the ball, that’s it.”

Truth is, Ausmus was on the fence about making that move.

“Greeney has been outstanding for us,” Ausmus said. “Quite frankly, he might be our best pitcher out of the bullpen this past month. But I didn’t think he was sharp. It was a tough decision (to go to Hardy) but I ended up going with the lefty-lefty matchup.

“I felt it was a crucial moment in the game. But looking back, there’s a good chance maybe Greene could get out of it, too. I just liked the lefty-lefty matchup at that point.”

Hardy ended up walking Gordon to force in a run. A second run scored on a sacrifice fly before he got out of the inning.

“It was a tough call,” Ausmus said. “Greene’s been so good, I was caught between seeing if he could fight through it or going with Blaine and the lefty-lefty matchup.”

His decision to use Francisco Rodriguez in the seventh was almost premeditated.

“I was going to use Frankie today in that situation, anyway,” he said. “I wasn’t forced into it by (the sixth inning). Even if Greene got through that inning, Frankie was going to get the next inning.”

Three reasons for that: Rodriguez has been showing signs of coming around. The Tigers need to find out if he can be a late-inning option. And he hadn’t pitched in eight days; he needed to work.

“Normally, guys like him are more effective when the game is on the line,” Ausmus said. “We have to find out if he can pitch with the game on the line.”

Rodriguez gave up a two-run home run to Eric Hosmer that put the Royals up 7-6, and the jury is still out.

In a perfect world, starter Daniel Norris would have at least worked through the sixth and the bridge to the Wilsons would have been shorter. Despite a biting slider and a change-up that was baffling the Royals, he was at 96 pitches through five.

“He was averaging 20 pitches an inning,” Ausmus said. “There was no way he was coming out for the sixth. Even if he has a good inning, he’s at 110 pitches. I didn’t want to get a couple of men on base and then have to bring somebody in with traffic.”

The offense — with a four-run eighth inning — relegated all that drama a mere side plot.

Twitter.com: @cmccosky