MILWAUKEE — Tyler Greene arrives at the ballpark each afternoon, walks by the lineup posted on the wall and glances to see if his name is there. More times than not of late, Greene has been left with the same answer: nope.
But for the first time since July 3 and just the fifth time since June 19, Greene likely stopped to double check Tuesday’s lineup card. He was in there, batting eighth and playing second base against Brewers lefty Randy Wolf.
It’s been a struggle for Greene, who is hitting .221 in 66 games this year and has found it tough to find playing time to try and work out of his skid at the plate.
“It’s out of my control,” Greene said. “I just come to the park ready to go and if my name is in the lineup I’m ready, and if not, I’m ready for any situation that arises. I’m trying to keep it as simple as that.
“I think any single one of us that comes to the park wants to be in the game and wants to play and wants at-bats, but you just take what’s given to you and make sure you’re ready for it.”
Greene launched a long foul ball that was just a few feet away from hitting the foul pole for a home run in his first at-bat Tuesday. He finished 0-for-2 but had a key sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning to advance runners to second and third. He also made an impressive stab and flip to second to get a force out in the third inning.
The former Georgia Tech star was basically handed the second base job in spring training, and with a new manager and a fresh start, most expected him to take the spot and run with it. But that never happened and second base has become a revolving door for much of the season.
The right-handed hitting Greene has shown flashes of the potential that plenty see in him. He went 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBI on May 6 at Houston. He was 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple on May 15 against the Cubs. And he went 3-for-4 and hit a two-out, two-run game-winning homer off a 101 MPH Andrew Cashner fastball in the bottom of the eighth inning on May 21 against San Diego.
The rest of his year hasn’t gone nearly as well. He’s hitting .221 overall but just .178 if you take out his three breakout games in May. And his career batting average has dropped to .219 in 479 at-bats over parts of four seasons with the Cardinals.
But despite the offensive struggles that led him to get just nine plate appearances in July entering Tuesday’s game, Greene disagrees that his season has been largely a disappointment.
“I thought I’ve had some big games, some big at-bats, some big hits, so I’m not disappointed at all,” Greene said. “Do I come to the park trying to improve every day, yeah, but in no way, shape or form am I disappointed with what I’ve done. I’ve had some good games and situations where I’ve come though.”
It’s a tough spot for Greene to be in. Relegated to pinch-hit duty this month, Greene can’t get the at-bats he needs to get hits because he’s not getting the hits to deserve more playing time. And he’s out of options so the club can’t send him to Triple-A for more consistant playing time.
The 28-year-old Greene, a former first round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2005, has worked with assistant hitting coach John Mabry on the art of pinch-hitting and has tried to adapt to his new role. He takes extra swings off a pitching machine on days he doesn’t start and has continued to adjust.
And when Greene does get a rare chance to bat, it’s usually late in the game when the Cardinals are in need of a base runner or a hit to continue a rally. So when he might like to swing at the first pitch or approach an at-bat one way, the situation may dictate him doing otherwise.
“That’s the thing I’ve tried to learn because you’re facing their eighth, ninth inning guys who have nasty stuff and are trying to get ahead to get to their nasty stuff,” Greene said. “It’s a tough situation, but I expect myself to be ready and to do the best I can but sometimes its going to happen and sometimes its not. That’s baseball.
“The unfortunate thing from an outside perspective is your degree of performance. Pinch-hitting you get what, three at-bats in a week? So you get one hit the next week and your 1-for-4 in a week and a half instead of, ‘he’s 0-for this.’ It’s a complete different mindset and approach to things.”
Tuesday was Greene’s 40th start among 91 team games to date. It was just his 11th start since June 1. Of his 28 games played in June and July, only 12 have been as a starter.
Said manager Mike Matheny, “I don’t expect him to be happy about it. I wouldn’t expect any guy who’s not playing on a regular basis to be happy with the situation. That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. You play this game and you try to play it everyday, but there are 25 guys here and we have to put the nine together each day that gives us the best chance. Whether you agree or not, that’s really not your position. Your position is to play when you’ve been given the opportunity.”
Greene said he tries not to put too much emphasis on each at-bat, but it’s hard not to when he’s only getting a few at-bats per week. Given a rare chance to impress, Greene wants to do just that and hopefully earn himself more playing time.
But as the season moves on and Greene continues to see both Skip Schumaker and Dan Descalso get the majority of the playing time over him at second base, the speedster plans to be ready whenever his name is called.
“You just go out there and whatever happens, happens,” Greene said. “You can’t force anything to happen and make things happen. You have to make sure you’ve done your preparation and you’re ready to play when the bell rings.
“It’s a tough thing. I think anybody in here would tell you it’s harder than playing every day, definitely. I’m staying positive with everything I’m doing and just making sure I’m ready and just let it happen out there.”