Reds prospect Greene eyes Majors in 2021

February 21st, 2021

Reds pitching prospect Hunter Greene has only 21 games of professional experience. Because of a right elbow injury, the right-hander hasn’t pitched in a game that counted statistically since July 26, 2018.

None of that has discouraged the 21-year-old Greene from his goal for this year, however. Greene, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, plans on reaching the big leagues, sooner rather than later.

“I want to be there this season. That’s solely my goal is to get there,” Greene said on Sunday from Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz. “I’ve worked extremely hard to put myself in the best position possible to succeed and to conquer that goal. … And to not just get there, but to stay there.”

Greene, the No. 71 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, is among 18 Reds prospects taking part in an early Minor League camp this spring, which gives him a chance to play in some Cactus League games should the club call him over for a day.

During the 2018 All-Star Futures Game, all 19 of Greene’s pitches registered at 100 mph or faster, and his top velocity was 103.1 mph. That created serious buzz, but within a couple of weeks, he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Efforts to rehab without surgery were attempted, but he ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2019, after a tear was discovered.

When Greene was ready to pitch again in 2020, there was no Minor League season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Reds sent Greene to their alternate training site at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, which turned out to be a silver lining.

“The last year turned into a great experience for him,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Being able to pitch at Prasco worked out really well, because there was enough competition for him against Major League-caliber hitters where it was a challenge. But it was also controlled enough to where he was still a little earlier than he was now, as far as recovering from his injury.”

“For me, it was nice to go and get my innings, but my biggest takeaway was kind of learning more of the big league life and just the day-to-day work. Just kind of the expectations,” Greene said.

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Greene believed he had a normal offseason with no lingering elbow issues. His velocity has returned to the triple-digit mph range. Since the injury, he’s made arm slot changes to put less stress on his shoulder and elbow.

“I feel like my fastball will always be there,” Greene said. “Obviously, I still need to throw it, because if you don’t throw it, you’ll lose it. But for me, my biggest focus has been making sure I try and perfect my secondary pitches as best as I can.”

On Wednesday, Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart made it a point to pair up with Greene during his bullpen session. It was Barnhart’s first time working with him.

“He was like, ‘Hunt, let’s go. You’re with me.’ And I love that,” Greene said. “I think I was putting my cleats on, I definitely wanted to throw to Tucker, but he beat me to the punch.”

Barnhart had seen plenty of Greene pitching on video and social media. The in-person vantage point did not disappoint.

“It was impressive. I mean, his fastball is electric,” Barnhart said. “His willingness to learn and his want to learn was very evident. We had a conversation in between during the bullpen, and then he sent me a text [Wednesday] night, about 6 or 7 o’clock at night, just thanking me and stuff like that. His willingness to learn and his want to get better is awesome to see.”

Bell did not rule out a potential call-up for Greene in ’21.

“If what’s best for Hunter Greene is to challenge him at the Major League level at some point in 2021, we certainly won’t hold him back from that,” Bell said. “Not only for him, but for our team. We’ll have to see.”