Hendrik Clementina gets to crouch behind the plate and catch 100 mph fastballs. That’s a rare and very cool thing. He’s been doing it since last summer with the Cincinnati Reds’ rookie league team in Billings, Mont. It carried over into spring training and into this summer with the Dayton Dragons.
On Thursday night, Clementina was catching those hard-to-hit fastballs into the fifth inning. That’s because Hunter Greene is starting to pitch like the rare talent that the Cincinnati Reds drafted him to be a year ago.
»ARCHDEACON: Greene has all the tools, and plenty of heart, too
Greene, who is still 18, made his second strong start in the past 12 days on Thursday in a 2-1 win over Lake County. Greene had season highs of 4 1/3 innings, 73 pitches and 50 strikes. One strike three swinging was clocked at 101 mph.
“His age and his ability to throw that fastball that hard — that’s the most impressive thing,” said Clementina, who hit the game-winning two-run single in the sixth inning.
Greene allowed four hits and only one of them was hit hard, a solo homer by Tyler Friis in the fifth inning. He struck out six and walked two. Greene lowered his ERA to 8.44, and his ERA over his last three starts is 3.86.
“It was a good outing,” Greene said. “All my pitches were working.”
Greene faced a difficult situation in the second inning when Jeter Downs committed an error on a sure double-play ball that would have ended the inning.
“I encouraged him to keep pitching because that will happen and that’s not going to be the last time that’s going to happen,” Clementina said. “You just have to be focused and keep pitching.”
Greene struck out the next batter looking on a 100 mph fastball. Then Miguel Eladio swung through three fastballs, the last at 101 mph, to end the inning.
“I’m a competitor so I do like to go after guys and compete, but I knew exactly the pitches I wanted to throw against those guys I struck out,” Greene said. “And I threw them perfectly right where I wanted them to be.”
Greene is able to attack hitters better because he’s studying them more. He and the other starters sit in the dugout with pitching coach Seth Etherton and talk about hitters and tendencies. And before every game he meets with Etherton and his catcher and develops a game plan of how and when to use his fastball, slider and changeup. Greene is learning more about this process with each start.
“That’s part of his learning experience,” Bolivar said. “He’s just now learning how to pitch.”
Etherton says Greene has not only the arm talent but the aptitude to become the star pitcher the Reds’ envision.
“I would think so,” he said. “There’s a high ceiling.”
Dragons tales: Research by renowned baseball writer Jayson Stark of The Athletic and Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that what Jeter Downs did Tuesday night has never been done in the major leagues, at least. Downs concluded the first game with an RBI single. He started the next game for the Dragons with a home run. So he batted consecutively for his team on the same day and had an RBI in each at-bat. Because of a lack of record-keeping it would be impossible to know for sure if it has ever happened in the minors.