Boston — When the Tigers got into a scary situation Thursday, in the fifth inning of a tight game against the Angels, Brad Ausmus had a single reliever in mind.
And when the Tigers needed a shutdown inning Friday following Jordan Zimmermann’s six-inning start, on came Greene to pitch his now-customary scoreless frame.
“Greenie just wants the ball,” Ausmus, the Tigers manager, said at the start of a weekend series against the Red Sox.
Ausmus repeated Saturday that “where we need to stop them right there,” he wants Greene, who has not allowed a run in his last five games, who is seventh among all American League relievers in appearances (30), and who in his last 29 games has a 1.57 ERA in 28⅔ innings.
The Tigers were staring Saturday night (7:15 p.m., FOX) at a potential starting pitcher battle royal at Fenway Park between Justin Verlander and Red Sox ace Chris Sale one night after they had lost the series opener to Boston, 5-3.
Ausmus isn’t into wearing down any reliever. But neither has he backed away from viewing Greene as indispensable, as a bullpen warrior who can rescue a mid-inning situation or throw a 1-2-3 blow-away inning that brings the Tigers an inning closer to perhaps winning a game.
It is all the product of pitches that are simply difficult to square up: a two-seam sinking fastball that can reach the mid-90s; an occasional — very occasional — four-seamer that can hit 97; a cutter that runs at 90 and bedevils hitters; a slider that moves and slices and acts as Greene’s off-speed option.
Greene is responsible for an opposing batting average of .184 in his last 30 appearances.
Ausmus has long had a particular appreciation for Greene’s pitching makeup. Factoring into his thoughts there, no doubt, is that Ausmus was a big-league catcher for 18 years and knows how truly distinctive psyches can mesh with powerful arms to build a special grade of reliever.
It is why, Ausmus repeated twice this weekend, he has no qualms about using Greene in any situation — from the mid-innings on. It’s the reverse of pitchers who often prefer a particular role or inning in which they tend to have specific comfort.
“The ability to man up often is just mental,” Ausmus said.
One gets the impression Greene, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound Florida native, could “man up” against an alligator and act as if it were simply one more contestant to be defeated.
It’s the way he pitches — with a quiet kind of militancy, regardless of the time or place.
It is why a skipper leans on him so often. And why, without overdoing it, Greene could be a team’s primary late-innings engineer in 2017.