Ask Hal: Time to groom Hunter Greene as a closer?

Q: Is the jury still out regarding Hunter Greene, the recipient of a substantial contract despite his performance arguably being mediocre? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: The jury is not out because Greene remains on trial. While he throws 100 miles per hour, his fastball shows little movement. His slider is passable if he can command and control it and he still is tinkering with other pitches. I maintain he should be placed in the bullpen and be groomed as a closer. My confidence in the consistency of present closer Alexis Diaz is the same as my confidence in the consistency of Greene as a starter. They both lack it. There is a positive. Both are young.

Q: Who do you recall making a memorable first at bat of his Reds career? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: At my age, my memory is as foggy as a San Francisco morning, so I shall go back to just last season, June 6. It was the much-hyped debut of Elly De La Cruz. Manager David Bell batted him clean-up and played him at third base. He came to bat and drew a four-pitch walk against LA Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin with two on and one out. The walk was impressive for a very eager rookie. So when he came up next time, it was his first official at bat. And he lined a double off the wall on a ball that left his bat at 112 miles per hour, the fastest of any Reds player that season. Now that’s an impressive debut and as we now know, it wasn’t a fluke.

Q: Do you think there will ever be another Big Red Machine? — PATRICIA, Beavercreek.

A: No way, no how. Not even New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, baseball’s version of Scrooge McDuck, could afford even The Great Eight, let alone including the pitching staff. For what they pay for mediocre players these days, .250 hitters, what would they have to pay Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr.? Plus, in these days of free agency, those guys would soon be scattered all over the baseball map.

Q: If the Reds want a guaranteed sellout, shouldn’t they invite basketball star Caitlin Clark to throw out the first pitch since she is now in Reds Country with the Indianapolis Fever? — MARK, Cocoa, FL.

A: Some folks in Indianapolis are Chicago White Sox fans, but that number probably is dwindling. A celebrity throwing out a ceremonial first pitch is not going to pack ‘em in. Now if they permitted her to start a game, or pitch in relief, that might do it. And with her athleticism, she probably could do it as well as some of the pitchers the Reds run out there.

Q: How religious are baseball players? JERRY, Springfield.

A: Baseball is a microcosm of real life. It takes all types. On Sunday mornings, home and away, the Reds offer a chapel service in a back room with a guest speaker, usually a former player who is religious. The two most religious players I remember are Michael Lorenzen and Chris Hammond. And I remember them because they sat in front of their lockers reading the Bible. One time pitcher Kent Mercker walked past Hammond as he was reading his Bible and Mercker said, “Haven’t you finished that book yet?”

Q: How does an umpire like Angel Hernandez have all those missed calls and keep his job? — RYAN/ELVIS, Englewood.

A: The umpires’ union might be stronger than the Teamsters. After an umpire makes the majors, he is pretty much guaranteed the job until he retires on his own. Yes, Hernandez is always embroiled in arguments over missed calls, but I give the guy a pass. He once prevented a woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente Bride in Pittsburgh. And he does tons of charitable work without fanfare. But darn it, Angel, a ball is a ball and an out is an out.

Q: Does the pitch clock have anything to do with the long list of season-ending injuries to pitchers? — TIM, Xenia.

A: I’ve heard that theory expressed, that rushing a pitcher leads to injury. I don’t see it. Why would throwing a pitch within 15 seconds be any different than throwing one within 30 seconds? With all the speed in the game today, infielders must rush throws and throw them hard, but we don’t see infielders lining up at a surgeon’s office to get Tommy John surgery the way pitchers do.

Q: Players on defense are looking at flash cards that they keep in their pockets between hitters, so what is on those cards and who makes them out? — RUSTY, Dayton.

A: Those cards are part of baseball’s love affair with analytics. The card tells outfielders where to play certain hitters — straight up, shade left or shade right, play in or play deep. Those cards, based on scouting reports, are filled out by the team’s analytics experts. It baffles me because batters don’t hit the ball to the same spot all the time. I have never seen a breakdown on how accurate those cards turn out to be.

Q: If you collaborated on a baseball movie, what line have you ever written would you like it said in the movie? — LARRY, Dallas, TX.

A: Since “Juuust a bit outside” and “There is no crying baseball” are already taken, mine would be one I wrote about a baseball owner who liked to drink vodka out of a paper cup while watching the game from a seat near the dugout. I wrote and would push for it to be in the movie, “To our owner, every inning is the bottom of the fifth.”

About the Author