Shane Greene began his tenure with the Detroit Tigers in impressive fashion, then showed only brief glimpses of that stretch for the remainder of last season before landing on the disabled list.
His hard work in spring training kept him in the conversation for the fifth starter's slot before ultimately losing out on the job, but an injury has given Greene another chance in the rotation and put him nearly back to square one – trying to impress his manager with a solid outing on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Detroit (4-2) acquired Greene from the New York Yankees in a three-team deal last offseason and he promptly won his first three starts with a 0.39 ERA. He went 1-8 with a 9.20 ERA in his last 13 starts, though, and was sent to the bullpen before an artery issue in his in right hand ended his major league season in early August.
Greene vowed to recapture his early season form during the spring, but Daniel Norris beat him out for the last spot in the rotation. Norris, though, is on the DL with a back injury, giving Greene an audition.
The right-hander earned his first big league save in the Tigers' 8-7, 11-inning victory at Miami on April 5 in his first appearance. He was supposed to start Monday, but Sunday's contest against the New York Yankees was postponed and he was pushed back two days.
“It's almost like he doesn't see anything else going on around him,” manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website. “I don't mean that in a negative way. He sees the catcher, gets the sign, throws the pitch. His whole world is 60 feet, six inches.
“If he pitches well, he'll stay (in the rotation).”
Another stellar performance against the Pirates (5-3) should earn him at least another start. Greene pitched perhaps the best game of his career April 14 at Pittsburgh, allowing three hits in eight innings of a 2-0 victory in his second start as a Tiger.
He'll be back on the PNC Park mound nearly a year to the day later following the Tigers' 8-2 victory in Detroit on Tuesday to earn a split. Justin Upton went 4 for 5 with his first home run as a Tiger, and he, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez (career high-tying four hits) had two RBIs apiece.
Upton has three doubles but has struck out 11 times in 28 at-bats against Ryan Vogelsong, who gets the ball in place of Francisco Liriano. A clubhouse spokesperson said after Tuesday's game that Liriano is dealing with hamstring discomfort and is considered day to day.
Vogelsong picked up a 6-5 victory in relief Friday against Cincinnati despite giving up two runs – one earned – and walking two in two innings. Starling Marte bailed out Liriano and Vogelsong with a grand slam in the eighth.
The right-hander, who went 8-10 with a 4.50 ERA in 22 starts last season, hasn't faced the Tigers since 2011. The Pirates hope to provide him with more support after registering only five hits Tuesday.
“As much as we were grinding, we just couldn't do anything,” said Matt Joyce, who went 0 for 2 with two walks.
The Pirates have dropped three of their last four, scoring two runs or fewer in each defeat. Marte accounted for their only scoring Tuesday with a homer in the sixth.
Marte has 11 hits over the last six after a pair of 0-for-4 games to start the season.