Bryan Price didn’t see the game, but the Cincinnati Reds manager believes he learned a lot about the team’s most recent top draft pick just from the numbers.
Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall selection in this past June’s draft, made the final appearance of his brief season Sept. 6 in a rookie-level Pioneer League start against the Helena Brewers and allowed one hit and one unearned run with a walk and four strikeouts in three innings.
That followed a disastrous outing at Missoula in which he logged one out while getting roughed up for six hits and six earned runs. His reaction merely fortified what Price already suspected based on minor league staff reports.
“Really good,” Price said before Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. “The good thing is he was able to get up there on the mound and pitch in competition. He had one bad outing, but that could be a good thing. There are so many mental challenges in this game that, when it comes back and hits you again, it’s a reminder that it doesn’t come easy. How you respond to that is important. He had a great outing the next time out. What I’ve seen of Hunter is he’s a very savvy and mature young man.”
The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Greene, pictured last spring on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the caption “The Star Baseball Needs,” was at Great American Ball Park on Saturday, the second day of a visit to Cincinnati that started on Friday with a stop at the city’s annual Oktoberfest celebration and a trip to the Major League Baseball Youth Academy in the suburb of Roselawn on Saturday morning.
“It’s been awesome to be able to check out the culture,” the 18-year-old said while standing in the home dugout as the Reds took batting practice. “They had some great food. I had a brat and a cream puff. It’s nice that I’ve been able to meet some of the guys and not just text with them. That’s been cool.”
To say Greene got his feet wet in professional baseball might be a stretch. Dabbling a toe might be more accurate. A shortstop-pitcher in at his Sherman Oaks, California high school, who had aspirations to play both professionally, he signed a contract that included a $7.23 million bonus and then started his career as Billings’ designated hitter, batting .233 (7-for-30) with two doubles, one triple, three runs batted in and eight strikeouts with zero walks in seven games.
He then transferred to the mound, where the Reds projected him as performing when they drafted him. He allowed one hit in one inning of his debut Aug. 27, also against Helena. He finished with a record of 0-1 and 12.46 earned-run average.
More crucial to his development was his exposure to the grinding life of a professional baseball player.
“The biggest difference from high school, where you play a couple of days a week, is playing every day and the bus rides and staying healthy and realizing that it’s your job,” said Greene, whose next stop is the Arizona instructional league. “The age difference, too, playing with guys who are 25 and had kids on the field. That was a big jump for me.
“It was a first step. There’s a long road to go and a lot of work to do.”
Rotation update: Price made it official Saturday. Right-hander Tyler Mahle’s season is done. He joins right-hander Luis Castillo and left-hander Amir Garrett on the sidelines, where they’ll continue to work on various shortcomings.
“We were able to satisfy our goals for him,” Price said of Mahle. “He got four starts and got acclimated to the major leagues. If he makes the team next year or comes up at some point during the season, it won’t be his first taste.”
Meanwhile, Saturday starter Sal Romano will be followed in the rotation by right-handers Robert Stephenson, Jackson Stephens, Rookie Davis and Homer Bailey.
Garrett will continue to work on the side with Jenkins “to get his delivery more consistent,” Price said.
“Guys like him and Castillo and Mahle can work on things in a less strenuous way,” he said. “We want to work with all of the young guys now so that, come Feb. 15, we’re not saying, ‘We want you to do it a different way.’ We want them working on it when they initiate their throwing program during the off-season, so they know what the goals are. We’re trying to get as much done in September as we can.”
Price had hoped to leave the 2017 regular season with all five slots in next season’s starting rotation at least penciled in instead of having spring training serve as a tryout camp. Mahle’s and Castillo’s names seem to be filling berths.
“The impressions certainly were extremely positive, especially in their impact on the club,” Price said. “Castillo would be in my rotation, but I’m not the only vote on that. We’re in a better situation in that we don’t have as many question marks going into spring training.”
Bye-bye, Buccos: Pittsburgh closes out its season series in Cincinnati and against the Reds in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale. Rookie right-hander Robert Stephenson (4-5, 5.45 ERA) is Cincinnati’s scheduled starter. Right-hander Gerriot Cole (11-10, 4.04) is due to start for the Pirates. In his last Cincinnati start Aug. 26, Cole snapped a career-long winless streak against the Reds, turning in seven innings and hitting a home run in a 1-0 Pittsburgh win.