Righty Shane Greene earns Tigers' fifth-starter spot, delivers stellar outing

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When the Detroit Tigers faced Shane Greene while the right-hander was with the New York Yankees, they recognized his potential. When he got off to a hot start with Detroit in 2015, that value was reaffirmed. And even after the struggles that followed, the team believed he still had the ability.

“We felt that player was still in there,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

The Tigers bet that Greene could bounce back, and he has -- at least in spring training. The 27-year-old pitcher earned himself the coveted fifth-starter spot that was the cornerstone competition in camp, and he delivered a stellar performance in his final outing before the regular season opens Tuesday in Miami.

After struggling with timing and fastball command in the first few frames, Greene was excellent in racking up nine strikeouts over 5⅔ scoreless innings in the Tigers’ 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

Greene’s performance on the mound was a fitting culmination to a superb spring that saw him rebound from a harrowing vascular surgery last summer and carve out a spot in the rotation. It has been a trying year for Greene, who could have lost his fingers had his shoulder aneurysm not been diagnosed in August; but he now is reaping the benefits of his commitment and unwavering faith.

He might have become an afterthought to some after last season’s setbacks, but he said he never doubted he would return to show his true value.

"No, I have all the confidence in the world in myself. I've been riding this roller coaster for a long time. I've gotten pretty good at riding it,” said Greene, who exited the game in the sixth inning to steady applause from the crowd at Ed Smith Stadium.

Greene felt he re-established his slider and attacked hitters effectively with his off-speed stuff. He struck out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth on Wednesday and didn’t even remember it afterward, he was so dialed in on the mound.

It was a good night to propel Greene into the regular season, where his spring training accomplishments will likely merit lofty expectations.

“Confidence-wise, it’s definitely encouraging,” Greene said.

Greene beat out several other promising candidates for the last spot in the rotation, including left-handers Daniel Norris, who suffered a freak weight-room injury, and Matt Boyd, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo earlier on Wednesday.

Asked about the decision to send Boyd to the minors, Ausmus offered his assessment.

"He could use some more development," Ausmus said. "He's got a new pitch in his slider that has the chance to be real good, and Shane Greene has probably pitched a little bit better.”

Boyd, who is considered one of the team's most promising pitching prospects, took the demotion in stride and sounded upbeat about the season ahead, despite the disappointing news handed down Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m good. I’m fired up, regardless of where I pitch this this year,” Boyd said. “I’m going to have a great year, and where I pitch is out of my control. Just going to go out there and keep toeing it up and keep building on it.”

Boyd said he was encouraged by his camp showing and felt he proved he can be a reliable starter, and then some.

“I feel like I went out there and showed that I can start in the big leagues, more than anything," Boyd said. "There’s not a doubt in my mind I can do that."

Boyd feels like this experience will make him that much hungrier to work his way back to the major league level.

“Absolutely. I’m making every day count until I get to be up there again,” Boyd said. “Help lead this team to a World Series.”