Greene flashes glove, bat in Class A debut

Detroit's No. 3 prospect caps night with inside-the-park homer

Riley Greene, the fifth overall pick in this year's Draft, is batting .318/.399/.473 across three levels. (West Michigan Whitecaps)

By Duane Cross / MiLB.com | August 8, 2019 11:52 PM

For Riley Greene, his Midwest League debut was the next stop on an "exciting ride," complete with two highlight-reel moments.

MLB.com's No. 49 overall prospect made a sterling grab in the outfield and then raced for an inside-the-park homer in Class A West Michigan's 9-6 loss to Bowling Green on Thursday night at Fifth Third Ballpark.

Video: Greene rips inside-the-park jack for Whitecaps

Promoted from Class A Short Season Connecticut on Wednesday, Greene went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Getting the promotion was "awesome," he said. "I knew some of the guys and I've met some new people. I was just excited to get started."

The fifth overall pick in June's Draft batted .351/.442/.595 in nine Rookie-level Gulf Coast League games. After posting a .295/.380/.386 line in 24 contests in the New York-Penn League, Greene was promoted to full-season ball.

In his first at-bat, Detroit's third-ranked prospect lofted a sacrifice fly off right-hander Nathan Witt that plated No. 13 prospect Wenceel Perez to give the Whitecaps a 1-0 lead.


Gameday box score


"It felt good when I hit it," Greene said. "We got a run, so my confidence was still there and it was just taking everything at-bat by at-bat."

He flied out to left in the second and popped out to third in the fifth before getting his first hit, a two-out single to right off right-hander Miller Hogan (4-3) in the seventh.

In the eighth, Greene raced into the gap in right-center field to haul in a drive by Seaver Whalen, laying out just short of the warning track to snare the ball for the second out of the frame.

"Making a catch like that, it's awesome," he said. "But that was tonight. I'll go out tomorrow and not think about tonight. I'll just try my hardest tomorrow."

Video: Greene's diving snag for Whitecaps

With West Michigan trailing, 9-5, with two outs in the ninth, the 18-year-old roped a drive that center fielder Grant Witherspoon tracked until he crashed into the wall. Left fielder Jordan Qsar hustled to retrieve the ball and the relay throw to the plate sailed high.

"It felt good off the bat," Greene said. "I'd asked some of the guys before the game if the ball carried to center and they said it didn't. The ball just doesn't fly here.

"When I saw the center fielder drifting, I sped up. When [Witherspoon] hit the wall and the ball bounced off, I was thinking I'd pull up at third base, but I saw [Whitecaps manager Lance Parrish] waving me around and I thought, 'Here we go.'"

Given his defensive gem and offensive output, it might be difficult for some to choose which was more memorable. But not for Greene.

"To be honest, the catch," he admitted without hesitation. "One hundred percent, I don't care where they put me, I'm going to play to the best of my ability. They could put me at shortstop and I'd still play hard."

Going from high school ball in the spring to first-round Draft pick to three different Minor League levels in his professional debut has been something of a whirlwind for Greene.

2019 MiLB include

"It's an exciting ride," he said. "I'm just playing baseball. It's what I've always wanted to do, and I was taught to be humble and don't take anything for granted.

"I just control what I can and play hard every day. If I do that, things will take care of themselves."

Bowling Green's Whalen contributed a two-run homer, a double and drove in four runs, while Witherspoon added three hits.

Hogan (4-3) allowed one run while scattering six hits and striking out six across six innings. Joel Peguero pitched the final two frames to pick up his 10th save.

Duane Cross is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DuaneCrossMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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