Hunter Greene will get the ball on Opening Day almost six years after the Cincinnati Reds selected him with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. At 23, Greene will be the youngest Reds pitcher to start the opener in 43 years.
On April 9, 1980, 22-year-old Frank Pastore threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves at Riverfront Stadium. He out-pitched a future Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro, who at 42 was nearly twice his age. The Reds won 9-0.
“I was very excited,” Pastore said then. “It was always a dream of mine to pitch Opening Day. I tried to keep myself as calm as possible with all the pressure and excitement of Opening Day. My biggest problem is I got overly excited.”
That will be something Greene will try to avoid when the Reds play the Pittsburgh Pirates at 4:10 p.m. Thursday at Great American Ball Park.
“I think I’m just trying to stay within myself, to be honest with you,” Greene told reporters in Cincinnati on Monday. “I’m still super excited, but I think I’m starting to hone my focus in more leading up to Opening Day and what’s in store for that day. I know there’s going to be a lot going on, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to do my job and put the team in the best position to win and do well that day.”
A year ago, the Reds opened the season on the road with four games against the Atlanta Braves. Opening Day in Cincinnati came in the fifth game of the season against the Cleveland Guardians. Greene made his big-league debut two days earlier in the fourth game of the 2022 season.
The Reds still celebrated the home opener as they do every season. Greene remembers the flyover — it was four Blackhawk helicopters a year ago — and the buzz of the fans.
“It’s very special,” Greene said. “It’s a very historic day, not just in Cincinnati, but in baseball in general, so I’m very honored.”
Greene was 5-13 with a 5.44 ERA last season. He made five starts this spring and was 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 1/3 innings.
The Reds started 2-2 last season, spitting a season-opening series against the Braves, but then lost 20 of their next 21 games. The 3-22 start led to a 62-100 season, the first 100-loss season since 1982.
Optimism abounds for every team in the offseason. The Reds are no different. The presence of Greene and two other young starting pitchers who pitched well last season, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft, feed the positive attitude entering the 2023 season.
“The chemistry is great,” Green said. “We’ve been able to have some great conversations as a group, as a unit. Now it’s time to put it all to work and show the world. I think that’s the most exciting part.”
Lodolo will start the second game of the season at 4:10 p.m. Saturday against the Pirates. Ashcraft gets the ball at 1:40 p.m. Sunday.
Reds manager David Bell said the three returning starters did everything right last season, had a great offseason and came to spring training ready to go.
“As spring training went on, little things would come up that they had to work through, and they did a great job of that,” Bell said. “Their spring trainings couldn’t have gone any better. Now we start the season, and it counts, but from a process standpoint, from day one of last season, I don’t know that we could have designed it any better with their success, some challenges they’ve had and just how they’ve handled everything. They continue to get better almost each time they go out, and for young pitchers, it’s really important.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 30
Pirates at Reds, 4:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410
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