'Pretty cool': Tigers' Riley Greene goes over wall to rob C.J. Cron of home run

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — No way was Jordy Mercer touching this one. He’s been around long enough to know you can’t win trying answer questions like this.

The debate after the Tigers' intrasquad game Monday morning was which catch was better — Derek Hill’s over-the-shoulder dive and barehanded grab against Jeimer Candelario last Wednesday or Riley Greene’s over-the-fence larceny of C.J. Cron’s home run bid on Monday.

Riley Greene robs C.J. Cron of a home run during an intrasquad game at Detroit Tigers Summer Camp on July 13.

“Why do you have to choose?” Mercer said. “Both were unbelievable catches. Hill’s was over-the-shoulder trying to make a Jim Edmonds-type catch and the ball comes out of his glove and he actually catches it with his bare hand; and Greene literally had his arm on the other side of the wall. It disappeared for a second and he brought it back.

“I choose option C — both.”

For the record, Hill gave the nod to Greene and Greene to Hill. But only one got Twitter eyes from Angels' Mike Trout, who has robbed a few home runs himself — and that was Greene.

More: Wojo: In sprint to the future, could Tigers actually make some noise?

“It’s crazy, huh,” said Mercer, who spent a lot of years watching Andrew McCutchen make incredible plays in the outfield. “We’ve got some talented young players and I think everyone is seeing that firsthand. We’ve got some guys who are really athletic with a lot of tools.

“It’s really good to see all these kids getting this experience.”

Greene was playing left field in the sixth inning Monday when Cron golfed a Gregory Soto pitch on a high arc toward the Tigers’ bullpen in left field.

“When Soto threw the pitch, I thought there was no chance he was going to hit that ball,” said Greene, still just 19 with all of 57 pro games under his belt. “But somehow he got to it and he hit it really high. I was like, ‘It’s got a chance to go.’ But it was hit high enough that I was able to get to the fence.

“I jumped and reached over. I was just happy it was there, so, yeah, pretty cool.”

His entire right arm went over the fence.

“I would hope his arm wouldn’t come off,” manager Ron Gardenhire quipped. “I think we’re OK.”

Greene, who also whacked a two-run single off right-hander Franklin Perez, said if it wasn’t the best catch he’s ever made in his life it was “up there.” He made a superb running catch in right-center field to rob Candelario of a double on Saturday, too.

He's doing his best to dispel the negative reports about his defense that circulated before the Tigers took him with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft.

“When I got drafted, a bunch of people were saying I wasn’t fast and I wasn’t that good of an outfielder,” he said. “I kind of took it and got with my guy (trainer) and worked on my speed and outfield stuff. I took pride in the hard work I put in to being a better outfielder.

“It’s paying off, but this is just the beginning. I’ve got to keep working hard.”

More: 'Everything is good now': Tigers' Niko Goodrum quickly knocks rust off glove, bat

The presence of prospects like Greene, Casey Mize, Matt Manning and 2020 draft picks Spencer Torkelson and Dillon Dingler has brought a buzz to this camp, for sure, but Gardenhire has made it clear from the start that the primary objective is to prepare the 30-man roster for the start of a 60-game season.

The prospects are going to spend most, if not all, of the summer on the club’s taxi squad playing intrasquad games at Fifth Third Field in Toledo.

“I know what we brought in here, all of our young prospects,” Gardenhire said. “Yes we want to see them doing what they’re doing. They’re having a lot of fun. But we also know they need to develop. I like watching them just like everyone else does. They are the future of this organization.

“But there’s a number of them that aren’t ready for this thing yet. It’s fun to see them go out and compete. That’s why they were drafted early. That’s why they are here. They are talented players and we just keep letting them have fun and we get to dream a little bit watching them play.”

Greene gets it. He knows full well why he’s here and it’s not to win a spot on the 30-man roster.

“When I got invited here, I told myself I was going to come, try my hardest, work as hard as I can and just go out and have fun,” he said. “I’m just taking it day by day. When we get to Toledo, it’ll just be baseball again. Go work as hard as I can and keep getting better.”

The experience, though, playing daily with and against big-league players in a big-league stadium — invaluable.

“Us older guys were talking about that,” Mercer said. “These guys (Torkelson and Dingler) are coming straight from college and hanging out with big leaguers in a big-league park. That’s cool. Who gets to do that? It’s pretty sweet.

“I remember being in Low-A in North Carolina and taking 12-hour bus rides like normal minor leaguers do. These guys get to come up here and see what all of us do, how we prepare, how everything works. It’s just going to help us down the road.”


Twitter: @cmccosky