MIAMI -- The rebuilding Reds have made numerous trades lately that have the club's attention firmly fixed on the future. But one huge part of that future -- starting pitcher Hunter Greene -- has been with the team all season and is going through the ups and downs of being a rookie.
Monday night's 3-1 Reds victory over the Marlins was definitely one of the ups for Greene as the 22-year-old worked six scoreless innings with one hit allowed and eight strikeouts. Since a 3-22 start to the season, Cincinnati has a 38-39 record.
“We’re continuing to move forward," Reds manager David Bell said. "We still get to continue to go play games every night and do everything that we can to win them. When we do have that success, it kind of keeps building on what we’re doing. We know where we are. We know we’ve lost teammates and friends over the last few days, and it’s not easy. As we’ve talked about, our team is very resilient when it comes to that."
Greene, who threw 84 pitches and hit two batters, retired 14 of his first 15 batters faced. The lone hit came on Charles Leblanc's one-out single to left field in the third inning.
In his previous start last Tuesday, a 2-1 loss to the Marlins at Great American Ball Park, Greene threw 38 fastballs at 100 mph or higher. Although his four-seamer averaged 98.6 mph and topped out at 101 mph, he hit triple digits only six times that outing.
"I felt like all of my pitches were on. They all felt great," Greene said. "When all of those things come together, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it helps a lot."
This time vs. Miami, Greene made his slider the showcase pitch with great effect. Of the 29 times the right-hander used it, he got 16 swings with 10 whiffs, including six of his eight strikeouts.
"Having a constant mix going in a second time, they were the last team I faced last start. So they wanted to come back with adjustments to my pitches," Greene said.
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Albert Almora Jr.'s two-out, two-run double to the right-field corner against Marlins starter Jesús Luzardo. Almora, who returned from a stint on the injured list with an illness for his first action since July 10, added another double to right in the seventh inning and scored on Jonathan India's two-out RBI single to left.
Greene kept the pressure on Miami's hitters and struck out four batters in a row over the fourth and fifth innings. His final pitch was a 99 mph fastball that struck out Lewin Díaz to end the sixth inning.
According to Stats Perform, Greene became the first rookie in MLB modern history to have three starts of at least six innings, eight strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed. He also did so on May 15 at Pittsburgh and on June 6 vs. Arizona.
Now 4-12 with a 5.26 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 20 starts this season, Greene has 102 2/3 innings. His career high is 106 1/3 innings, set last year for Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.
There does not appear to be an innings limit for Greene at the moment. Bell did not let him go too deep into Monday's game, even though the righty was not tiring.
“It’s going to depend on the night," Bell said. "Tonight, I just felt that was enough for Hunter. But we still have a long way to go. Learning to navigate a whole Major League season is important. But we need to help him do that. There will be nights where he gets pushed, still. If anything changes, we’ll make that adjustment. For now, nothing has changed.”
Greene, who is one of three rookies in the Reds' rotation alongside Graham Ashcraft and Nick Lodolo, has no designs on shortening his season.
"I’m full-steam, continuing to push through," Greene said. "I’ll keep going out there and trying to do the best I can do. I feel good, I feel like I’m continuing to get better. I think that’s a good motivator, to go out there and push through for the rest of the season. It’s easy to say that when you have a good outing. When you don’t, it’s a little harder to say that. I feel like I’m in a good place and continuing to put the team in the best position to succeed."