Solid first start positions Greene for 'another step forward'

February 28th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Starting pitcher doesn't have to think about making the Reds’ rotation, or worry about making the roster in general, as he heads into his second big league season. Greene used Monday's spring debut vs. the Rangers for exactly what he wanted -- working on pitches.

Greene threw 1 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and one walk and striking out two, during Cincinnati’s 13-2 loss to Texas. As far as the 23-year-old was concerned, the outing went great.

"My body felt good. Executed a lot of great pitches," said Greene, who threw 39 pitches overall. "The slider missed a couple of times but in good spots, so I can work on that. I’m really, really happy with today.”

During his rookie season, Greene went 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA while leading the team in strikeouts (164), innings (125 2/3), and starts (24).

Greene's 2022 was one that featured numerous peaks and valleys. On multiple occasions, he set records (in the pitch-tracking era) for most 100 mph pitches in a start, including his tops of 47 on Sept. 17 vs. St. Louis. On May 15 at Pittsburgh, he threw 7 1/3 innings as the Reds no-hit the Pirates and still lost the game, 1-0. He gave up 24 home runs, including 23 before the All-Star break.

There was also a right shoulder strain that cost Greene six weeks on the injured list. But after returning, he had a 1.02 ERA over his final six starts to get a good feeling going into the offseason.

"I have to remind myself he’s still young and going into his second season," Reds manager David Bell said. "He’s just very mature. He handles everything. You couldn’t ask for him to handle it any better. I just go back to last season being a perfect season for him because he had a lot of success, but he had some adversity, had an injury, had opportunities to learn. 

"He had enough of everything. The way he handles everything, he should be even better and take another step forward this year."

Against the Rangers, Greene opened the first inning by allowing back-to-back singles before he struck out Jonah Heim with a 100 mph fastball, according to the stadium gun. He threw another 100 mph pitch to Mitch Garver and got a fly out to center field. With two outs, Ezequiel Duran hit an RBI single to right field.

Greene was the first Reds starter to return for a second inning this spring. He gave up a leadoff walk and a one out double before exiting. One of his runners scored later in the inning.

Among the offseason goals for Greene was to work on his secondary pitches, especially his changeup. During the game, he also used his slider but got it into the dirt against a couple of hitters. He said he wasn't trying to bury it.

"I was trying to get a little more of a different angle. Good misses," he said.

Greene was also twice charged with clock violations that cost him a called ball -- once against Travis Jankowski in the first inning and again leading off the second against Mark Mathias.

“A little bit of an adjustment, but I’m continuing to educate myself on it and continuing to work on it in my bullpens and stuff like that," Greene said of his pacing. "We’re creatures of habit -- being pitchers, baseball players in general. It’s just a lot of reps. It’s continuing to stay with it and we’ll figure it out as we go.”

Expected to join and at the top portion of the rotation, Greene has appeared more comfortable in the clubhouse with a year of experience under his belt. He is looking forward to building on what was accomplished in 2022.

"Knowing the position that I’m in, obviously I still have to go out there and work on what I need to work on," Greene said. "I need to execute the same, if not better. Just the expectations for myself are a little different.”

More from Monday:
Rotation candidate had a rough first outing while giving up six earned runs on six hits, including one homer, over 1 1/3 innings in relief. Overton was taken out during the third inning and allowed to re-enter for the fourth under spring rules. Garver opened the top of the fourth with a homer and Overton was removed a second time with two outs.

"They hit some balls hard. A lot of ground balls," Bell said. "Just looked like they were on his pitches. Connor is going to be fine. It’s his first time out as well. He threw strikes."