CINCINNATI — As a high schooler, as a Draft pick and as a Minor Leaguer, there has been no shortage of buzz surrounding pitcher Hunter Greene. A much-anticipated Major League debut on Sunday vs. the Braves should be no different.
Greene’s entry to the big leagues could mean the arrival of a generational talent to Cincinnati’s rotation. If nothing else, the right-hander’s starts could become appointment viewing for all baseball fans.
For start No. 1, here are some things to know:
How can I watch the game?
For only the third time since 1890 and the first time since 1990, the Reds are opening a season on the road, and that means Greene’s debut is away from Cincinnati as well. Fourth in the rotation, he is scheduled to pitch in the four-game series finale at Atlanta’s Truist Park.
• The Reds’ television rights holder, Bally Sports Ohio, will air the game beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. It will also be available on ESPN+ outside of the Cincinnati market. Listeners can also find the game on the Reds radio network and flagship station WLW-AM.
• For those who feel like taking a drive, Truist Park in suburban Atlanta is a 448-mile trek from Great American Ball Park. As of Monday, there were tickets available for Sunday’s game.
Why is Greene’s debut getting so much attention?
Greene, 22, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Reds’ No. 1 prospect and No. 22 overall. He was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft and considered the best prospect in that Draft class. Heading into that Draft, Greene was the 13th high school athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Even while in high school, he flashed triple-digit fastball velocity as a pitcher while also starring as a plus-hitting shortstop.
That velocity was on display during the 2018 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Washington. Greene threw 19 pitches during his inning of work — all were fastballs 100 mph or faster with a top speed of 103.1 mph.
Why has Greene’s debut been so long in the making?
Unfortunately, that All-Star appearance in Washington proved costly as Greene suffered a right elbow injury that cut short his 2018 season with Class A Dayton. He eventually was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery in April 2019. Of course, the 2020 season was completely wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greene spent some time at the organization’s alternate training site.
In 2021, Greene was 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 41 innings over seven starts at Double-A Chattanooga. Following his promotion to Triple-A Louisville, he went 5-8 with a 4.13 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP in 14 starts while working 65 1/3 innings.
What can we expect from Greene for the Reds?
Obviously, the velocity will be something that many people focus on. Even after major elbow surgery, Greene can still bring heat over 100 mph. He frequently touched 102 mph in Cactus League games this spring.
But Greene has repeatedly stated he doesn’t want to be — nor can he realistically be — a one-pitch pitcher. In camp this spring, he has shown improved secondary pitches with his slider and changeup. During Greene’s March 26 start vs. the Giants of two scoreless innings and 33 pitches, he threw a 91 mph changeup to a few hitters, and he even started pitch sequences with it a couple of times.
“I’ve been working on that a lot in the offseason,” Greene said after that start. “I take a lot of pride in my changeup now, really more than any other pitch. The fastball is great, the slider is cool, but the changeup is where my mind is at, and I’m really happy with that.”
There will likely be some bumps along the way, too. In the outing that followed on Thursday, Greene allowed seven runs (five earned) with a pair of home runs.
Why give him the call now?
As part of a rebuilding effort, veterans Sonny Gray and Wade Miley were traded. At the start of camp, Luis Castillo and Mike Minor both got delayed by shoulder soreness that has them opening the season on the injured list. The Reds’ expected five-man rotation will have three rookies in Greene, Reiver Sanmartin and Nick Lodolo and a second-year pitcher in Vladimir Gutierrez. Tyler Mahle, the Opening Day starter, is the lone veteran in the starting five that opens 2022 for Cincinnati.
Where is he from?
Greene was born on Aug. 6, 1999, in Los Angeles, and he graduated Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Other notable alumni of the school were Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, former baseball executive Pat Gillick, musician and reality show host Dave Navarro and actors Kirsten Dunst, Jerry Mathers, Rami Malek, Ed Begley Jr., Rachel Bilson and Donald Gibb.
As a junior, Greene attended the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Past participants to become Major League players include Dom Smith, JP Crawford, Khris Davis, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Hicks.
What number will Greene wear?
Greene was given No. 21, the uniform number that previously belonged to reliever Michael Lorenzen from 2016-21. Todd Frazier wore the 21 before Lorenzen from ’11-15. Perhaps the most beloved No. 21 for the Reds was first baseman Sean Casey, who wore it from 1998-2005.