Why Detroit Tigers chose Grayson Greiner to be backup catcher over Jake Rogers

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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LAKELAND, Fla. — Jake Rogers is going to have to wait.

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch announced Thursday that Grayson Greiner has won the backup catching job out of spring training and will be included on the Opening Day roster. Wilson Ramos is the starting catcher.

"If we call it a competition, we're going to hold up our end of the bargain and make it be a competition," Hinch said Thursday. "And Greiner won the backup job."

Rogers, ranked by MLB Pipeline at No. 16 in the Tigers' farm system, is headed for the alternate training site in Toledo, where the 25-year-old will get reps on offense and defense in April leading up to the Triple-A campaign in May.

Hinch said he expects Rogers and 22-year-old third baseman Isaac Paredes, also cut from the roster Thursday and destined for Toledo, to "both play for us in the big leagues this season when we need them."

"We feel like the other guys in camp in the infield are ahead of Isaac when it comes to making our club out of spring," Hinch said. "The message to both of them was that the competition didn't go their way, and they've got work to do."

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Greiner beat out non-roster invitees Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase, as well. They are going to remain with the Tigers through the end of spring training. Also, utility infielder Greg Garcia is not going to make the roster; he has an opt-out in his contract soon.

Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner covers home plate during the second inning of the Tigers' 5-4 win on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Oakland, Calif.
Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner covers home plate during the second inning of the Tigers' 5-4 win on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Oakland, Calif.

The 28-year-old secured his role entering 2021 with a strong performance camp, despite missing one week with a broken nose: 4-for-10 (.400), one home run, two RBIs, five walks and four strikeouts in 10 games. Beyond Greiner's production at the plate, he proved to Hinch he is capable of furthering the pitching staff's development.

"To be an offensive something behind the plate, while maintaining that game planning, he's one of the smartest game planners that we have among this group," Hinch said. "He's cleaned up his receiving a little bit. He studies. There's a trust that's developed quickly with him."

As Greiner excelled in a small sample, Rogers struggled.

Rogers went 3-for-22 (.136) with one double, one RBI, one walk and 10 strikeouts. He made his MLB debut in the 2019 season — hitting .125 with 13 walks and 51 strikeouts in a 35-game stint — and did not return for the 2020 campaign.

"We're going to sit down with him tomorrow ... and develop a real game plan on a real day-by-day goal basis for him to be a more offensive player," Hinch said, "while watching him continue to use these good habits behind the plate and be a productive catcher."

Instead, the Tigers kept Rogers at the alternate training site for the entire year. The minors leagues were canceled, so he was forced to play intrasquad games with and against the same pitchers on a daily basis.

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The Detroit Tigers held workouts at Comerica Park Friday, July 3, 2020. Catcher Jake Rogers waits to take batting practice as the team prepares for the shortened 2020 season.
The Detroit Tigers held workouts at Comerica Park Friday, July 3, 2020. Catcher Jake Rogers waits to take batting practice as the team prepares for the shortened 2020 season.

The Tigers gave Rogers every opportunity to make the team in Lakeland this spring. He cleaned up his defense to reinstate himself as the top defensive prospect at catcher. But his approach in the batter's box rarely delivered competitive at-bats.

Until Rogers improves offensively, he is unlikely to get back to Comerica Park.

"We've got to find a way for him to contribute offensively," Hinch said. "That comes with the swing. He knows the strike zone. He generally swings at the right pitches and takes the bad pitches. Obviously, he's been going through some swing transitions, and we need to simplify it."

Greiner's offensive track record isn't much to boast about, either, which could mean a call-up for Rogers if he does well in Toledo — and Greiner stumbles in the majors — to begin the year. Greiner is a career .194 hitter, with eight homers and 39 RBIs, in 106 games across parts of three MLB seasons.

Last season, Greiner had a .118 batting average in 18 games.

"If he can maintain the swing that he's shown in spring, where he can hit the ball hard and keep the line moving, then I think we have a bonafide backup catcher in the big leagues," Hinch said. "And not just somebody that we chose based on a spring training competition."

The Tigers drafted Greiner in the third round in 2014 from South Carolina. Rogers was picked up by the Houston Astros in the third round in 2016 from Tulane, and was traded to Detroit in the 2017 Justin Verlander deal.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers name Grayson Greiner backup catcher over Jake Rogers