Greene: 'I'm moving in the right direction'

Rookie sees progress from previous start despite loss to Rockies

April 30th, 2022

DENVER -- Anytime Hunter Greene pitches, the Reds rookie’s velocity will be a point of emphasis for many observers. Greene would prefer to evaluate his performance on the whole of his outing, however.

For the second straight start, Greene’s fastball did not reach the triple-digit speeds of his earlier outings. But he felt like the progress he wanted was there, despite another negative outcome. The Reds’ 10-4 defeat to the Rockies on Friday night at Coors Field sent the club’s record to 3-17.

“Better tonight, so I’m moving in the right direction,” Greene said. “I’m not 100 percent, but I’m getting there. Better than last start.”

Greene, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Reds’ No. 1 prospect and No. 21 overall, pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs, six hits and four walks with six strikeouts. The 22-year-old, who threw 95 pitches, yielded two home runs on fastballs that were in the strike zone.

“I feel like that’s the only time I really get hit -- when it goes over the plate,” Greene said. “I feel like any pitcher once the ball creeps over. But if you’re able to execute and locate, you put yourself in a better position.”

Through four starts, Greene is 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. In 18 innings, he has allowed 19 hits, five homers and 10 walks while striking out 22.

During his 3 1/3-innings start a week earlier against the Cardinals, Greene demonstrated significantly lower fastball velocity, averaging 95.8 mph -- 4.4 mph less than in his electric April 16 outing against the Dodgers. In that game, he threw a record 39 pitches at 100-plus mph.

The Reds responded by pushing back Greene’s next scheduled start to Friday so he could get a couple of extra days’ rest. This time, his four-seam fastball averaged 96.7 mph and topped out at 99.1 mph. He threw one more slider (45) than four-seamers.

It’s natural to wonder, after a second start of decreased velocity, whether Greene is feeling healthy.

“I addressed it last game. I don’t want to dwell on it,” Greene replied. “I’m very proud of myself of how I’ve been able to go out and pitch. There’s going to be times, like the last two starts, where you don’t feel 100 percent. But you’ve got to bear down, go out there and just compete. I feel like I’ve done a good job with that. So trying to keep that in perspective in the days that I do have 100-plus in the tank, those are the days that are fun. The days like today, you go out there and try to keep hitters off-balance, and you just try to put your team in a good position to win.”

Through four innings, Greene largely avoided damage while navigating around baserunners. In the first inning, he allowed a leadoff single and a two-out walk but struck out the side. Elias Díaz led off the bottom of the second inning by hitting a first-pitch fastball to right-center field for a homer.

Trouble accelerated for Greene after he entered the bottom of the fifth with 73 pitches. Charlie Blackmon zinged a leadoff double to right-center field, then C.J. Cron provided the hardest contact of the night against Greene with a single to right-center field that left his bat at 110.7 mph.

Ryan McMahon then clobbered a 1-0 fastball for a three-run homer to right field that made it a 4-1 game. The exit velocity was 103.6 mph. Greene had struck out McMahon his first two times up.

"I'd kept getting beat up and in by him,” McMahon said. “I actually ran up to the cage and tried to practice hitting five or six ground balls to first base, just to make sure I was getting on top of it. He left it down a little bit, where I could handle it. I put a good swing on it."

Greene was removed when Díaz followed McMahon with a walk.

“I feel good about letting Hunter try to pitch out of that spot,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s going to get that opportunity a lot over the course of his career. It didn’t work out tonight, but I feel good about giving him that experience right there. Next time, he’ll get it done.”

Unlike Greene’s previous start, when he induced weaker contact, several Rockies hitters blistered balls. Colorado’s average exit velocity against Greene’s fastball was 104.3 mph.

“To really be one pitch away from allowing one run through five … that would have been a real success if he was able to do that,” Bell said. “Maybe they were [hitting the ball hard], but at the same time, this is really a good place, a tough place to pitch.”