Tigers closer Shane Greene gets to seven saves quicker than any pitcher in MLB history

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers closer Shane Greene has seven saves in his team's first 10 games.

Detroit — It was a classic Shane Greene response.

Told he was the first Tigers pitcher, and only the third in major league history, to collect six saves in the first nine games of the season, he said, “Does it sound cool, yeah, but I can’t control the score when I pitch. I’m just trying to do my job.”

He wasn't immediately available after the Tigers' 3-1 win Sunday, which is too bad, because he became the first pitcher in major-league history to earn seven saves in the first 10 games of a season.

"He's always had unbelievable stuff," catcher John HIcks said. "This is what, his third year in the bullpen? And he keeps getting better. His fastball has more depth to it, more sink to it than it has in years past and he's gotten more confident with that pitch."

Of his 13 pitches Sunday, he threw six sinkers, got two called strikes, including a called third strike on Alex Gordon to start the inning. He threw four cutters and got one swing and miss. And he struck out Jorge Soler with one of his three sliders. 

"In years prior, if he got into a jam, it was just, 'I'm going to spin the ball. I'm going to throw cutters and I'm going to throw sliders,'" Hicks said. "This year, he's committed to throwing that fastball and sinking it.

"It's hard and it's moving that much, guys can't put the barrel on it."

Greene has given up just two hits in his seven innings of work, with no walks. And he’s averaged just over 12 pitches per outing. It’s about as efficient as it can be done. Which is why he’s been able to post seven times in 11 days with no visible physical stress.

“I feel good,” he said before the game. “Obviously it’s still early in the season, so it’s easy to feel good now. But I pride myself on being ready to pitch every single day, no matter what.”

With an off-day Monday, Gardenhire said Greene would be available again Sunday. But before long, he will use Joe Jimenezand have to spell Greene.

“He’s not going to be able to keep going at this pace, there’s no way,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Jimenez is going to get the ball in some of these situations, and with VerHagen back, we can back those guys up and just tell Shane, ‘You’re putting handcuffs on, you’re not pitching.’”

Gardenhire isn't trying to be a buzz-kill here, but using his closer in seven of 10 games in the first week of the season isn't a recipe for long-term success. 

"Pretty cool," Gardenhire said of Greene's piece of history. "But I hope it doesn't continue, to tell you the truth. I'd actually like to score more runs and not have save situations."


Twitter: @cmccosky