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Hunter Greene making strides for Reds in Class A

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Hunter Greene is 18 and wants to be on the Dayton-Florida-Louisville express line to the majors. The Reds want that and fans want that. A 21-year-old Greene pitching in Cincinnati would be exciting.

To move quickly through the minors requires raw talent. He’s got that. How quickly that raw talent is refined into major-league ability is anybody’s guess. But over the past month that express – if it is indeed one – is gaining speed.

Greene, who was the Reds’ first-round draft choice last year, pitched five innings Saturday night in Dayton in the Dragons’ 1-0 loss to Bowling Green. He allowed a run on a groundout, four hits and two walks. He struck out six and hit 101 mph with his fastball at least eight times.

It gets better. Greene has allowed one run or less in five of his last six starts to lower his ERA from double digits to 5.70. In 11 starts and 36 ⅓ innings, Greene has struck out 50 and allowed 17 walks and 43 hits.

The Reds have many examples of how difficult that final step from AAA to the National League can be for a starting pitcher. A few good starts in low A doesn’t guarantee anything. But when you consider the changes a kid out of high school faces in his first year, Greene looks like a pitcher who is on the right track.

“We see the improvement now,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said after one of Greene’s recent starts. “You’ve got to look at the numbers at the end. The numbers right now don’t matter. You see the improvement and the quality outings and that’s the way you have to look at it. At the end of the year you’re going to see results and you’re going to see the numbers.”

Each time I’ve talked to Bolivar about Greene he smiles and says positive things. Pitching coach Seth Etherton is the same way. He’s been working with Greene since they were at Billings, Montana, last year in the rookie league. Etherton has said more than once that he expects Greene to make it and make it big.

Greene’s learning curve and realization of what he needs to learn has shown progress since the start of May. He is spending more time in pregame meetings about the lineup he is about to face, and he’s learning more from those meetings.

He sits in the dugout with Etherton and his fellow pitchers, particularly roommate Tyler Mondile, and talks about the hitters. The education and the experience are coming together with the talent.

“We’re all talking in the dugout about how we’re going to go over these guys and compete against them, and we were able to do that,” Greene said.

Greene has yet to pitch more than five innings. His pitch limit lately has been 80 and he threw 84 Saturday. The Reds haven’t said how high that limit goes this season, but it’s doubtful it will get to 100. Getting through his first full season healthy might be the most important thing to happen this summer for Greene.

“If he’s able to get to the fifth inning now that’s awesome,” Bolivar said. “I know he will get better at that. Hopefully he can get past the fifth and into the sixth inning using less pitches.”

If you have the opportunity, it’s worth your time to see Greene pitch in person. He throws hard and works fast. If you can’t stay late, you can head home early after he’s reached his pitch limit and some day say you saw him pitch when he was 18.

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