Sometimes a little can go a long way. In the case of Hunter Greene that meant mixing in a few more offspeed pitches to complement his triple-digit heat. It all added up to a scoreless start and the first Triple-A victory of his career.
MLB's No. 55 overall prospect struck out six and scattered two hits and three walks over five innings to lead Triple-A Louisville past visiting Indianapolis, 5-0, on Wednesday night. One start after reaching 104 mph with his fastball, Greene topped out at 102 while throwing 85 pitches, 52 for strikes.
As the flamethrower explains, velocity only gets a pitcher so far.
"I couldn't care less about how hard I’m throwing," Greene said after the game. "If I’m getting guys out with offspeed stuff and all my pitches, it’s great. You can’t get by in this game with just a hard fastball. Being able to keep [the changeup] in the mix and keep those guys off balance is key. I continue to work on my secondary pitches and try and make those as good as my fastball. To be able to throw hard is great, but if you can’t produce other pitches in certain counts, it’s real tough to get these guys out."
Coming off his Triple-A debut where he struck out eight but also surrendered four solo homers in four innings, including three in the opening frame, the second-ranked Reds prospect looked more like a pitcher with a blistering fastball than just a thrower Wednesday. Greene set the tone immediately, striking out the first batter of the game en route to setting down the first 10 Indianapolis hitters, five via the strikeout.
The 21-year-old ran into trouble after retiring the first batter in the fourth when he surrendered two singles and a walk, but a pop out helped him escape the jam. Greene notched his sixth and final strikeout for the second out of the fifth but walked consecutive hitters before a fly out ended the threat and his evening.
Through two Triple-A starts, the right-hander has surrendered four runs in nine innings while striking out 14. Overall, Greene improved to 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 50 innings. It was the seventh time in nine starts he allowed two or fewer runs and his 74 strikeouts are tied for the second-highest total in the Minors.
"I felt like all of my pitches were working really well," Greene said. "My slider was great. My fastball ... to be able to throw it up, throw it down, right, left ... that always helps. Everything felt great. I got a lot of weak contact … keeping guys off balance. That’s always good to see"
Drafted second overall in 2017, Greene last pitched competitively in 2018 when he posted a 4.47 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings while taking part in the Futures Game. He was sidelined that August and underwent Tommy John surgery, which cost him the entire 2019 season. He spent last summer at Cincinnati's alternate training site but nothing replicates true game action.
"There’s always room for improvement. I’m always trying to work and get better and for the most part, I’ve been feeling good," Greene said. "This is my first year after Tommy John [surgery] and I feel like I’m in a really good place. The No. 1 thing is staying healthy. Performance is great ... but I’ve got a lot of work to do and I'm continuing to [make] that my focus."