Tigers to use Greene out of bullpen

Tigers to use Greene out of bullpen

DETROIT -- Shane Greene won the fifth spot in the Tigers' rotation out of Spring Training, but his season began with an Opening Day save at Miami. After a month on the disabled list, his season will continue with more late-inning situations out of the bullpen.

The Tigers activated Greene from the 15-day disabled list after Friday's win over the White Sox in order to put the right-hander into the bullpen. It doesn't settle the debate over whether Greene fits best long term as a starter or reliever, but for now, he fits the Tigers' pitching staff best in relief.

It didn't take long to find his fit in Saturday's 7-4 win over the White Sox. No sooner had the Tigers taken a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning than Greene took the mound to protect it. He retired the White Sox in order, sending a 95-mph fastball past Dioner Navarro for a strikeout before dropping a breaking ball in on Tyler Saladino.

"We figure he can pitch the sixth and/or seventh, maybe hand the ball off to [Justin Wilson] on days where both of those guys are able to pitch," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Today, the first appearance back off the DL, he did an outstanding job."

Greene's shift is intended to shore up a bullpen that was revamped last offseason, especially on the setup end. But Mark Lowe has struggled since signing a two-year contract as a free agent last December. The veteran righty will try to work his way out of it in lower-leverage situations, but three ninth-inning hits Saturday turned a 7-2 game into a save situation for Francisco Rodriguez.

Lowe has allowed 17 runs on 22 hits over 18 innings, walking nine and striking out 17.

"We still need to get Lowe back," Ausmus said. "He can be a big contributor if we can get him back the way he normally pitches."

Alex Wilson, who handled just about every role possible for a right-hander in a vastly thinner bullpen last year, struggled through May but has shown signs of regaining his repertoire lately, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings over his last two games.

Greene's move to the bullpen means left-hander Matt Boyd will remain in the Tigers' rotation for now. He's listed as the probable starter for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays, his old squad. Detroit also has Daniel Norris in waiting at Triple-A Toledo, having posted a 3-1 record, 2.59 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings over his last four starts.

Buck Farmer, who was optioned to Toledo to make room for Greene's return, is expected to work as a starter with the Mud Hens, the same role he had when the Tigers called him up last month.

One name not in play for the Tigers' rotation is Padres ace James Shields, who was dealt to the division-rival White Sox on Saturday. The Tigers have focused their efforts within their system for fixes to their pitching staff, which is why they resisted other clubs' trade interest in Norris and other young arms last offseason. Moreover, any salary the Tigers add on in midsummer deals would be compounded by luxury-tax penalties after their payroll crossed the threshold with the Justin Upton signing in January.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.