Shane Greene slides into closer role for Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

New York — It was a no-brainer.

That’s how manager Brad Ausmus described the decision to move Shane Greene into the closer’s role vacated by the trade of Justin Wilson.

“He’s the obvious answer,” Ausmus said. “He’s pitched the best of the guys that are still here. He’s going to get an opportunity to close out games and we will try to mix and match to try to get it to him.”

Ausmus has been using Greene in the highest-leverage situations prior to the ninth inning, from the sixth inning through the eighth. And he’s been reliable — allowing just six of 57 inherited runners to score in the last two seasons.

“I’ve never done it before, obviously,” Greene said. “It’s the hardest three outs in baseball to get — so I am excited for the task.”

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Greene’s repertoire fits the role. He has a mid- to upper-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider. He has 50 strikeouts in 46 innings, but he also has 25 walks. He was not surprised when Ausmus called him Sunday night and told him, “Hey, we liked you in the eighth inning, so we’re going to use you in the ninth.”

Said Greene: “The decision wasn’t up to me, obviously, but I was expecting it, just because of the situations I’d been put in throughout the year. I was being used when the game was on the line before the ninth inning.

“So, now with J-Willie gone, I figured there was a pretty good chance.”

Greene, who is always in attack-mode, has the mentality for the role, as well.

“I am not going to change my mentality, so much,” he said. “I am still going out there trying to get everybody out. But, like I said, it’s the hardest three outs to get in the game. So, pitch selection and things of that nature might change a little bit.

“But I’ve never done it before, so it’s going to be trial and error and I will learn along the way.”

Greene and Wilson were close, and the two had dinner in New York after the trade was announced.

“We talked about this possibility and everything else,” Greene said. “He helped me a lot. And before when I talked to K-Rod (former closer Francisco Rodriguez), he helped me a lot. But this is something I have to do and learn from experience.”

It would be fitting for Greene to get his first save opportunity in Yankee Stadium, where he broke into the big leagues as a starter.

“Yeah, kind of weird,” he said. “Full circle. … I always said when I was a starter, I wanted to show up on my start day and have my teammates think we were going to win. And if I was a reliever, when I run out that outfield door, that my teammates would know, whatever the situation was — and now that I’m closing — that the game is over.

“That’s my goal.”

As for how Ausmus will use his bullpen to get to the game to Greene, he said, “We will pitch anybody anywhere at this point.”

Alex Wilson, Daniel Stumpf, Bruce Rondon and newly promoted Joe Jimenez will be in the set-up mix.