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Bob Wojnowski and Chris McCosky discuss the improving Tigers, the 9-11 start and what to expect from key players in the coming weeks. Detroit News

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Kansas City, Mo. — It was going to be one of two things and he had three hours to stew about it.

Grayson Greiner, the Tigers third-round draft pick in 2014, was on the original lineup card for the Toledo Mud Hens pm Thursday night. About an hour later, another lineup was posted —he was no longer starting.

“My heart started beating real fast,” Greiner said.

Two thoughts: Either he was being summoned to the big leagues for the first time or, he’d been benched.

“I was a little confused at first,” he said. “Why did I get benched.”

But he’d heard what had happened in Kansas City. He’d heard that Miguel Cabrera had come out of the game with a hamstring strain. He knew the Tigers had been using back-up catcher John Hicks at first base recently.

He had the length of the Mud Hens game at Durham to connect the dots.

“After the game, Doug (Mientkiewicz, manager) called me in and told me the news,” Greiner said. “I was speechless – just like everybody else who gets called up for the first time.”

The best moment, the one that will stay in his heart forever, was immediately sharing the news, face to face, with his wife, his baby son and his father – all of whom were in Raleigh-Durham for the game.

“To get to share it with them — awesome,” he said. “I am very humbled by the opportunity.”

Greiner is 25. After hitting .322 in his first pro season at Low-A West Michigan in 2014, he fell off the grid in 2015. Playing at High-A Lakeland, his batting average plummeted to .183 and he struck out 90 times in 343 plate appearances.

“I had a bad year a couple of years ago and that probably set me back a little bit as far as the organization,” he said. “I tried not to let that get me down. Just attack each day with a good attitude. That’s how I go about my business.”

More: Tigers place 'frustrated' Miguel Cabrera on disabled list

Turned out, he had a vision problem. He had Lasik surgery before the 2016 season, which helped immensely. As he said at the time, “Can’t hit what you can’t see, right?”

Then he got to work on refashioning his hitting mechanics with former big-leaguer and South Carolina coach Brian Buscher and Tigers roving hitting coordinator Bruce Fields.

The result: He put himself back on the organization’s map with a huge season in 2016. Climbing from Lakeland, to Double-A Erie to Toledo, he hit .293 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs.

That earned him a spot in the Arizona Fall League and a year later, he was the No. 3 catcher in the Tigers system.

“I didn’t really have a timetable (to get to the big leagues,” he said. “Just trying to get better every day. I hoped that one day this would happen and I am very thankful that it did.”

His wife, son and his father all made the trip to Kansas City to share his debut, which is likely to come Saturday or Sunday.

More: Henning: Cabrera's return to form includes bout of crankiness

Hardy returns

Left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy is back on the 40-man roster and back in the big leagues.

Hardy’s contract was purchased from Toledo Friday and he’s taken the roster spot of Chad Bell, who was optioned back to Toledo on Thursday. He caught a flight out of Raleigh-Durham Friday morning and arrived at Kauffmann Stadium around 4 p.m.

Talk about a long, strange trip. Hardy was a mainstay in the Tigers’ bullpen the previous four seasons (9-4, 3.62 ERA in 159 games). He signed a $795,000 contract ahead of arbitration this winter. But, he dealt with shoulder impingement this spring. He was limited to one spring outing.

Not only did he not go north with the team, he was lopped off the 40-man roster. He cleared waivers and signed back on a two-way deal that will pay him $192,000.

Rough. But he made the most of it. In seven outings in Toledo, four starts, he posted a 3-0 record, allowing two runs in 24.1 innings with 30 strikeouts.

“The only way you get back is if you pitch and do well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You can pout about it and end up staying (in the minor leagues) the whole season. Or you can do something. He put himself in position to be called back.

“That’s what we tell them when we send them out. Go down and pitch and put yourself in position. When the team needs somebody, you’re going to be the guy they call because you are doing well.”

Hardy was rushing to get settled and didn’t have time to talk to reporters before the game. He will be used in long relief.

Around the horn

The Mets announced they planned to designate Matt Harvey for assignment after he declined to be optioned to Triple-A.

Asked about whether that intrigued him, Gardenhire said, “How much is he making?” Over $5 million. “We’re not here to spend more money,” he said. “We will run with what we got and keep running our kids out there. I don’t pay attention to those million-dollar figures. It doesn’t affect us, I don’t think. I won’t even ask.”

... Victor Martinez (ankle), Jose Iglesias (ankle) and Warwick Saupold (hamstring cramp) were all back in the lineup or available for duty Friday.

Tigers at Royals

First pitch: 4:15 Saturday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

TV/radio: FS1/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

* RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 5.81), Tigers: Everything clicked for him in his last start against the Rays, he allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings. The difference, he shelved his two-seam fastball and threw more off-speed pitches — 13 change-ups (he’d thrown 12 in his previous five starts combined) and 15 curve balls.

* RHP Jason Hammel (0-3, 4.91), Royals: He pitched his best baseball the three years he spent with the Cubs, under the guidance of Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio. This will be his third start against the Tigers already this season. The Tigers beat him up a bit on April 2 (five runs in five innings), but he was stingy on April 20, holding the Tigers to two runs in nine innings.

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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