Greene's homer-heavy outing is another chance to learn

June 23rd, 2022

CINCINNATI -- When Hunter Greene’s four-seam fastball is right this season, the Reds rookie starting pitcher has shown remarkable ability of doing whatever he seems to want with hitters.

When Greene’s fastball isn’t as effective, he is more likely to get outcomes like he did Thursday vs. the Dodgers. This time, he was pummeled for three home runs during the Reds’ 10-5 loss, giving him a dubious Major League lead with 20 homers allowed in 2022.

“He's close, man. So close, you see it,” said Reds left fielder Tommy Pham, who had two defensive assists early and a three-run homer in the seventh inning. “You see the ability. It's just part of this process. As a young player like him, you have those bumps in the road. All he can do is learn from every outing and continue to work on getting better.”

As Cincinnati dropped its seventh game in a row and 11th of its last 14, Greene allowed six earned runs on nine hits (which matched a career high) and two walks and three strikeouts over five innings and 98 pitches against Los Angeles.

“I made some really good pitches and I made some not so great pitches,” Greene said. “Going back and forth between those two. Obviously, a solid hitting team. They capitalized on the pitches I didn’t execute and they hit some ones that I did execute.”

The Reds’ defense threw out three runners on the bases over the first three innings, but Greene could not limit damaging contact. All three of the homers against him came on fastballs that were at least 97 mph.

In the third inning on a 1-1 pitch, Freddie Freeman continued to menace Reds pitchers when his two-run homer left his bat at 108.4 mph and traveled a Statcast projected 427 feet to right-center field to make it a 3-0 game. Freeman delivered 10 RBIs in the three-game series and 14 overall vs. the Reds this season.

“I was trying to get into the hands a little bit. The ball just stayed [in the] middle and he hit it,” Greene said.

With one out in the fourth inning, Cody Bellinger slugged a 3-0 fastball to right field for a five-run Dodgers lead. A two-out homer to right field by Max Muncy in the fifth inning put Cincinnati behind, 6-1.

Of his 20 homers allowed by Greene, 13 have come on pitches that were 97 mph or faster -- already a single-season record since pitch tracking began in 2008. The luminaries that held the previous record of 10 include Noah Syndergaard (2015 and ‘19) Gerrit Cole (2021) and Luis Severino (2018).

“Coming in, I knew I was going to have days like today. I was already mentally prepared for that,” Greene said. “I take a lot of pride in my work and obviously want to do well. You have guys that have 10 years of playing and 10 years of experience on you too. I understand that not a lot of people want to hear that, they want to see results. I want to see results too.

“I like to think I have all of the talent in the world. That will only get you so far in this game. Experience helps a lot. I’ve gone through some moments so far that I’ve learned from, and I’ll continue to do that throughout this season and for the rest of my career.”

This season has featured multiple dazzling outings by Greene, including some on the heels of poor games. Against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine on April 16, he threw a record 39 pitches over 100 mph -- and lost. He tossed 7 1/3 no-hit innings vs. the Pirates in a May 15 loss, and his rain-shortened seven-inning complete game win vs. the D-backs -- when he faced the minimum amount of batters on June 6 -- will long be memorable.

But Greene’s overall record is 3-8 with a 5.66 ERA in 14 starts. With fellow young arm Nick Lodolo possibly returning from the injured list next week, the Reds potentially could option Greene to Triple-A Louisville, especially since he will need his innings limited after having pitched only 179 frames in the Minors since 2017.

A demotion, though, seems unlikely.

“This is exactly what Hunter needs to be experiencing,” Reds manager David Bell said. “As someone who cares about Hunter, of course you want it to go perfect and everything to be great. The success, the tougher outings, all of this, he is on track. It’s all about how he responds. So far to this point, he’s been great. He’s learned every single time, regardless if it’s a great start or a tough start or whatever, he’s handled it every single time. That has to continue.”