Hunter Greene looked like a pitcher who wasn’t ready to come out of the game Friday night. He was throwing fastballs in the high 90s and his 87th pitch induced a flyout to center. But Dayton Dragons manager Luis Bolivar walked to the mound and motioned for Cory Thompson to come in from the bullpen.
Greene had reached his pitch limit mandated by the Reds’ player development team and left the game as he always does when that happens. The difference this time was that it happened with two outs in the seventh inning. Greene pitched past the fifth inning for the first time with the Dragons.
“Health-wise I could’ve finished the game for sure,” Greene said. “It’s the best I’ve felt, so it was great to go that far.”
Greene’s adrenaline was pumping in the first inning against the South Bend Cubs when he threw six 100 mph fastballs and one for 101. He faced the minimum of nine batters through three innings by picking off a runner in the third after allowing his first hit.
Greene’s only troubles came in the fourth when the Cubs scored all they would need in a 3-2 victory, sending the Dragons (0-2, 31-39) to their sixth straight loss and 13th in their past 15 games.
Roberto Caro led off the fourth with a triple and that cost Greene his concentration just long enough. He said he thought the ball was going to be caught in deep center field, so he failed to back up third base. The next pitch turned into a throwing error by shortstop Jeter Downs and a run scored. The next pitch was a double and it was 2-0. After a strikeout, another double made it 3-0. He finished the inning with two of his seven strikeouts. One of the runs was unearned.
“I’ve got to be able to stay locked in and not take pitches off and mentally be there every single pitch,” Greene said.
Bolivar saw it happen, too.
“He lost a little bit of concentration,” he said. “But I give him a lot of credit, he regrouped himself.”
Greene (1-6) allowed only one more hit and five for the game. He was efficient with no walks and 62 of his 87 pitches were strikes. He relied on the fastball but also used his slider at times as an out pitch. He lowered his ERA to 5.13 and has a 2.37 ERA over his last six starts.
“I feel like every outing I’ve been getting better,” Greene said. “I’ve go to continue to learn and get better for sure and stay healthy and to continue to execute pitches.”
Greene is looking forward to the days of higher pitch limits.
“Obviously I want to finish the game, but it’s not in my control,” he said. “I’ve got people higher than me that are making those decisions. They’re doing it for the future, and I’ve got to be able to understand that and make it as great an outing as I can and take advantage of the outings I have and make the best of them.”
Thompson is a converted infielder and continued to impress in his 2 1/3 innings of relief. He has a 1.72 ERA in 26 appearances. Bolivar said Thompson’s fastball has gotten livelier, his curveball breaks sharply and his changeup has improved.
“He’s been very, very consistent since the beginning of the year and he keeps proving it,” Bolivar said. “I’m really, really happy for him.”
The Dragons rallied in the fifth when Downs singled home a run and a second came home when the throw to third hit baserunner Mitch Piatnik, allowing him to score. With two outs, the speedy Downs tried to score from second on a single by J.D. Williams but was thrown out at home by the left fielder. After a leadoff double in the eighth, Downs tried to score from third on a flyout with two outs and was thrown out by the center fielder.
“We have to keep playing our game and being aggressive,” Bolivar said. “With two outs, you’ve got to take the chances there.”