DAYTON, Ohio -- Hunter Greene knew he had a pitch limit for his 2018 debut here on Monday night, somewhere in the 40-to-60 range. So when the Reds' top pick in the 2017 Draft had runners on second and third and no one out in the third inning, he knew
DAYTON, Ohio -- Hunter Greene knew he had a pitch limit for his 2018 debut here on Monday night, somewhere in the 40-to-60 range. So when the Reds' top pick in the 2017 Draft had runners on second and third and no one out in the third inning, he knew he had to find an extra gear to finish the inning and his outing against the Lake County Captains (Indians) on a high note.
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The No. 21 prospect on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list and No. 2 on the Reds' Top 30 list, Greene did just that. He struck out the next three hitters to leave those two runners stranded, getting center fielder Todd Isaacs, Indians' No. 7 prospect Will Benson and left fielder Austin Wade to wave at three breaking balls, pumping his fist after the Benson and Wade K's to punctuate a three-inning, two-run, eight-strikeout season debut.
"I knew I was done after that inning, so I knew I could show it a little bit more," Greene said about the emotion he displayed on the mound. "I live for situations like that, where you get in a jam and you have to just bear down. That's when you really become a pitcher. That's when you really show you know how to throw in certain counts, your pitches are ready, every single pitch in the arsenal. My team was fired up, too. That was a great situation to get out of."
The No. 2 pick in last June's Draft did get touched for two runs on five hits, but Greene also struck out the side in the first and third innings, punching out two in the second. He threw 35 of his 53 pitches for strikes without issuing a walk. The first three pitches out of Greene's hand were 100 mph, and his fastball was 96-100 mph for all three innings. His very effective slider was consistently in the 85-89 mph range.
Greene's fastball was a little straight in that first frame as No. 18 Indians prospect Oscar Gonzalez singled solidly up the middle after leadoff hitter Jorma Rodriguez was frozen on a breaking ball. Greene caught Isaacs looking with a 100-mph fastball, but Benson turned around 98-mph heat with a hard single and Wade drove in two runs with a double the other way. The 18-year-old righty escaped further damage by fanning shortstop Tyler Friis on another 98-mph fastball.
Greene made some adjustments in his second inning of work, showing a fastball with a lot more life. He got first baseman Ulysses Cantu on a weak groundout to first, struck out catcher Michael Rivera on a 98-mph fastball down in the zone, then whiffed third baseman Dillon Persinger on an 87-mph slider to end the frame. Greene's breaking ball was his go-to out pitch throughout the night.
"Everybody is sitting dead-red fastball, they're bringing their A game when they come out," Greene said. "To pick the right count to throw the secondary pitches is important. I was able to do that a little bit in the last inning and make an adjustment.
"For sure. It happens, but to be able to bounce back, show your maturity and your competitiveness is what I was trying to do," Greene added. "I had a good team behind me to defend and come back with some runs."
Greene left with the score tied at 2, a game Dayton eventually won. Heading into his first start, there was concern over how the Southern California native would deal with the temperature, which sat at a frigid 39 degrees at the start of the game. He was not fazed by it, showing surprisingly good feel for his breaking stuff.
"It actually wasn't bad," Greene said. "I had some great layers underneath. I had a little heat warmer in my back pocket and we had a rocket flame thing in the dugout. I was warm and ready to go."
Greene, a two-way standout at Notre Dame High School in Southern California, threw just 4 1/3 innings last summer during his debut and also got 30 at-bats as a designated hitter after signing for $7.23 million. Focusing on pitching only in 2018, the plan is for Greene to continue to stretch himself out slowly in his first full season of pro ball as he continues his learning process on the mound.
"I think I'm going to stay around there for a little bit, continue to build up and take it step by step, take it slow and make sure I'm healthy and ready to compete," Greene said about his pitch count. "I still have a lot to work on, from continuing to pound the zone, focusing on lefties more, knowing how to get them out more. I'm a lot more comfortable with the righty, but understanding how to get the lefty out so I'm just as comfortable with that."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.