If you were at all concerned about the velocity from Hunter Greene as he returned from Tommy John surgery, those fears should be gone. The 21-year-old pitcher made the start for the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels – his first game action since July of 2018 when he was making starts for the then Low-A Dayton Dragons. The first three pitches of the game were clocked in on the stadium scoreboard at 101 MPH, 102 MPH, and 103 MPH. The next one was 103 MPH, too.
Things didn’t go quite as smoothly from there. A late swing resulted in a punched single down the first base line. Hunter Greene then hit Jon Jay with a breaking ball. Former Reds shorstop Jose Iglesias then hit a 3-run homer on a hanging slider to make it 3-0. A walk followed before another former Red came up. Greene came out ahead this time by striking out Phil Gosselin. Juan Lagares singled into right field. Outfielder Taylor Ward grounded the ball over to Joey Votto, who tossed to Greene at first, but Greene had the ball bounce off of his glove for an error, but he recovered and fired home where Tucker Barnhart tagged out Walsh who was trying to score. With his pitch count mounting the Reds chose to “roll the inning” at that point despite there just being two outs recorded.
Hunter Greene, 103mph Fastball. ? pic.twitter.com/cFErCE0hXR
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 3, 2021
The takeaway from the outing should be something as simple as “Hunter Greene is healthy and that’s a fantastic thing”. He hadn’t pitched against an opponent in 950 days (he pitched at the alternate site last season) and just getting back out on the mound was good to see.
With that said, he certainly had some struggles. His fastball was generally located well enough. The breaking ball, however, was the pitch where Greene seemed to have some struggles with. It was inconsistent and he couldn’t locate it often. As Jeff Brantley noted on the radio broadcast – finding your breaking ball in Arizona isn’t always easy. If we toss in that it’s the first appearance of the spring, well, there’s next to nothing at all to worry about.
What Hunter Greene had to say after the game
When asked how it felt being back on the mound in a game for the first time since July of 2018:
“Good man, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a game environment,” Greene said. “Getting back out there was kind of crazy, but going in I’ve been doing this since I was 6, 7-years-old so at the end of the day I just focused back to that and knowing that it’s just another game of baseball. A lot of excitement leading into it and just getting back out there and competing. To have Tucker back there and be able to trust someone with his experience and the career he’s had, that made it a lot easier. It was nice to have the guys out there and everybody was great and first day out of the books.”
On how he would grade his inning of work:
“Obviously expectations are always high,” said Greene. “But it’s my first game out and obviously having a short term memory is huge in this game and just being able to build off of today. I think that’s my biggest take away, just being able to build off of it. I’m glad that I played shortstop with that play after dropping that 3-1 play and being able to make it home. You just continue to grow and you learn from it and just move on to the next day.”
What was the biggest thing he learned from the experience:
“There was a lot of takeways, there was a lot,” Greene said. “For me I think the biggest thing is like I said earlier, just building off of it. My secondary pitchers, I felt like they were backing up a little bit. At the end of the day, I know it was 3-0 coming out, but at the end of the day I’m actually happy with how I felt and just my body and I felt comfortable out there, which I think is great. Not being in a game going on 2.5 years and then playing with these guys – I felt like I was ready and prepared. Just being out there. For me I’ve always felt like I rose to the occasion if I’m playing up and I think after today it’ll be a good test for me to come back and bounce back even better for next game.”
On why starting the game with 101, 102, and 103 MPH isn’t the memory he’ll take away from the game:
“Riley (O’Brien) was telling me that my first pitch was 101, 102, then 103,” said Greene. “It’s great, but for me I’m focusing on so much more than that. There’s a lot to work on other than just velocity. It’s great and a lot of guys are like ‘man I wish I threw that hard’, but for me I’m trying to work on some other things – my secondary pitches, just more like pitch philosophy and understanding who I am as a pitcher and how I get guys out the best – just focusing on that is kind of my biggest take away.”
What others were saying
Manager David Bell
On what he saw from Hunter Greene on the night:
“He came out throwing the ball, that’s for sure,” said Bell. “He showed off his velocity and definitely looked like he belonged out there. I think no matter what happened tonight, no matter what the result was – it was going to be a good experience for Hunter Greene to pitch in that game. Knowing Hunter, knowing how he approaches everything – he’ll learn from it. Not the worst thing in the world, but the results were probably not how he wanted them to go, but I know he’ll learn from it and be ready for his next time out. He was making pitches, he might have made a couple he’d like to have over again but for the most part he threw the ball well and it was a good experience for him.”
On the Tucker Barnhart helping Greene this spring:
“Yeah, Tucker has made an effort to be there for Hunter and catch his bullpens,” said Bell. “Hunter has really has welcomed that opportunity, not only because Tucker is who he is, but he recognized early that Tucker was trying to help him. He enjoyed the conversations after each time he caught him and he knew he was going to learn more by having Tucker’s experience, and that’s been nice to see and Tucker’s been great with him. He came in and I heard him say something along the lines to Hunter ‘I know the results weren’t great, but really, take one pitch back here or there and it could have gone totally different’, and that’s true, that’s how the game is. It’s fun to watch them help each other, and Tucker’s really taken it upon himself to help Hunter as much as he can.”
Catcher Tucker Barnhart
On what he saw from Hunter Greene on the night:
“His stuff’s electric,” Barnhart said. “We talked about it in the dugout – there’s really not much, and I know it’s not in the Major Leagues necessarily, but it is kind of for him a kind of welcome to the Major Leagues moment. First guys he faced were big league hitters and the guy hadn’t pitched in 18 months in a game, I don’t think. I’ve been paired up with him here in spring, just catching him and offering my feedback and working with DJ and Eric, and just make him realize his stuff is elite. His fastball his is ELITE. I think the first pitches tonight were 101, 102,103 – that speaks for itself. I think he’s just going to continue to polish his stuff and I think the sky’s the limit for the guy. He works so hard. His eagerness and willingness to get better, to learn, and to listen is awesome. I’ve had a blast, not only tonight, but I’ve had a blast getting to know him and getting to know him as a pitcher as well. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to a lot more of it.”
On the conversation he had with Greene after the inning was over:
“It’s funny, man. I stopped the bullpen the other day and asked him if he was having fun just because he was so stoic and stonefaced while he was throwing his bullpen on the side on the backfield throwing 98 in spring training and I just told him to laugh, have fun,” Barnhart said. “Tonight we were walking into the bullpen before the game started and he was asking about how we should attack hitters, which is phenomenal and I love hearing it, but I said why don’t you just throw 103 by somebody, because you can. The conversation we had in the dugout was just that there’s nothing other than building off of this that he can do. There’s no reason at all to put too much stock in the result. He threw a lot of really good pitches, he threw a lot of really good fastballs, some breaking balls that were very playable. We didn’t get to the change up much tonight, which I think is a very good pitch and it’s going to be a very good pitch especially with his fastball. I just tried to relay the message to continue to grow, continue to build off of what you did tonight and don’t think too much into it because everyone has their first time against big league hitters and tonight happened to be his.”
On if there was a specific plan on the night heading into the game:
“Not necessarily,” said Barnhart. “I just was kind of wanting to challenge hitters, maybe almost to a fault at points. I just wanted him to throw strikes, I didn’t necessarily have a plan. Just kind of going out there, it didn’t go like we wanted it to like we talked on the way in. My goal was to have him throw more pitches in the bullpen after the inning. I wanted him to get through the inning so fast that he needed to throw the rest of his pitches out in the outfield (bullpen). It didn’t work out like that, but I told him that I honestly feel he threw one bad pitch and that was to Iglesias, and I really think that. The ball Fletcher hit earlier he kind of like blocked it down the line. Then he hit Jon Jay on what he was trying to do – he was trying to throw him a back foot breaking ball and he hit him with a back foot breaking ball. Those things happen. Then he hung the slider. We had the roll the inning, he didn’t get all the way through it, but I really think he pitched better than I would say the result (was) and I tried to relay that message to him after the inning.”