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Prospect Q&A: Cardinals' Conner Greene

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

JUPITER, Fla. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Cardinals camp, it was St. Louis's No. 21 prospect, Conner Greene.

Greene was a seventh-round pick out of the California high school ranks by the Blue Jays in 2013 and moved up prospect lists in 2015 and 2016 as his tremendous arm strength and raw stuff started to produce results. He struggled quite a bit in Double-A in 2017, but the Cardinals liked the upside enough to make sure he was part of the return in the Randal Grichuk trade this offseason.

JUPITER, Fla. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Cardinals camp, it was St. Louis's No. 21 prospect, Conner Greene.

Greene was a seventh-round pick out of the California high school ranks by the Blue Jays in 2013 and moved up prospect lists in 2015 and 2016 as his tremendous arm strength and raw stuff started to produce results. He struggled quite a bit in Double-A in 2017, but the Cardinals liked the upside enough to make sure he was part of the return in the Randal Grichuk trade this offseason.

• Cardinals' camp report

MLB Pipeline: You've had to adjust to a new organization, and new teammates, after being traded to the Cardinals. How has that gone for you?

:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::

Greene: At first, you're a little bit nervous and you're questioning what it's going to be like, but right away, I think they welcomed me as one of their own and I feel right at home. I was on the big league side, so that felt pretty good. The boys were super nice to me and super welcoming. The older pitchers here have already begun to teach me things and share some of their knowledge. It's been awesome.

MLB Pipeline: This is an organization that has a track record of player development and getting players to the big leagues.

Greene: Especially pitchers.

MLB Pipeline: Especially pitchers. There must have been an excitement level in coming here, knowing that these guys know how to help guys like you.

Greene: Being really good friends with Jack Flaherty and seeing his recent success last season, and in talking to him, I think I'm right where I need to be. I think they're going to help me take it to the next level. I think I'm real close. I have a lot of things that are good, so it's just fine-tuning it. I think they have a lot of good information and a lot of good staff that will know exactly what to do. And I'm doing it.

MLB Pipeline: Where does the friendship with Jack Flaherty come from?

Greene: We grew up in the same place. Same with Lucas Giolito and Max Fried. I was supposed to go to Harvard-Westlake, but I didn't pass that test, so I didn't get to go. We were just buddies and we were the studs in the town. My dad loves baseball and loves coaching good ballplayers, so he really loved coaching them when we were kids, so that's how we all met.

MLB Pipeline: What are some of the things, regarding the information they have here you mentioned, that has helped you, or was something you hadn't considered?

Greene: From an analytics standpoint, they have a lot of good information that shows me who I am. I'd been trying to be a sinker ball guy while I have a high spin rate, so it's like I'm fighting myself there. There are things we're going to focus on more than other areas. Instead of trying to go heavy groundballs and sinkers all day when I'm a four-seam fastball guy throwing really hard. What was I doing? It's simple, but it's something I'm definitely going to switch. Even just talking to Adam Wainwright, a lot of the things he's telling me, things he went through, and his journey, it gives me hope. It keeps me motivated. If Wainwright went through some struggles, than anyone can do it and still be OK.

MLB Pipeline: If you had been dominating everywhere you'd been, maybe you'd be more reluctant to change anything. But you struggled, especially last year.

Greene: I don't want to be in Double-A anymore. If there's something they can teach me, if there's something I can pick up to become elite, then I have to. I have no other choice. I don't want to stick around in Double-A and be bad all the time. I want to figure it out and put it together.

MLB Pipeline: You talked very openly about how a change in medication for your ADHD really impacted how you were able to pitch last year. Was that the reason for you not being able to make adjustments or command the baseball like you're capable of doing?

Greene: It was a snowball effect. The command, in the bullpen, I'm not a command issue guy. But what it was, this anxiety I was getting from this medication was ridiculous. Thank God I'm off of it. I pulled the trigger on that. We all thought this was something that would help me, but it didn't. I'm never going to do it again and I feel great now. Last year, my thoughts on the mound… when the going gets tough, that's when I used to get tougher and really focused. That's what all great athletes have. Kobe Bryant shooting threes, us making pitches, it's the same thing. When it gets tough, we lock it in and that's when we execute. It was tough for me to execute and remain in a calm focus when I was on that medication, and it would snowball and I would start making these "perfect" pitches under the zone. I would make the "perfect" groundout to shortstop pitch, ball one. Another perfect pitch, ball two. Then I'm behind in the count and 100 plays like 92.

I think I was pitching like a weeny. It's just about attacking hitters. I was pitching scared and I didn't believe in myself and I didn't believe in my stuff. I do blame the medication because it was having me lose a lot of confidence. Confidence had always been a thing I was really good at. It was foolish last year, but it's going to be OK this year.

MLB Pipeline: Going from the serious to the slightly ridiculous, any acting gigs in your future? You're kind of known for having appeared in some episodes of "Anger Management" with Charlie Sheen.

Greene: As of now, until I make it and make a name for myself in this game, I think it's going to be a thing of the past. Who knows? If I shove the next couple of years and do something amazing, I might be the next Shaquille O'Neal of sports acting. But as of right now, I'm 100 percent focused here. My mind is here, my body is here.

MLB Pipeline: You have a gymnastics background and you used to do the rings as part of your workout routine, then you stopped doing it. Have you been able to re-incorporate any of that?

Greene: I had surgery this offseason on my left shoulder because I flipped over the handlebars of my bike running my dogs, so I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to do the rings again. I'm good enough to pitch, and that's what I care about, but I don't know if I'll be hanging and soaring like I was. I definitely feel a little weaker because I'm not doing it. We're lucky I'm good here, so I don't think I'll be risking it.

MLB Pipeline: When you look back on that training, that stuff that you did, how much has it helped you in terms of your athleticism and balance on the mound?

Greene: I think it absolutely does help. I think just being an athlete on the field. We'll draft guys who are ex-football players just on athleticism alone. It plays and it helps with adjustments. If I miss with a ball high, I can feel my body and understand why the ball was delivered where it was and I can make an adjustment. I think having that physicality is the reason why I can.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals