Hunter Greene throws fast and works fast. And he’s learning fast.
Greene went five innings for the Dayton Dragons for the first time Tuesday night because he pitched well and was able to stay under his pitch-count limit. Greene has made three good starts since May 12 and has produced a 3.24 ERA over his last four starts.
“It’s fast,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “He had rough outings and he changed everything and he showed improvement. Now the last three have been quality, so that tells you his improvement is quicker.”
Greene threw 79 pitches (45 for strikes) and allowed three hits, including a solo homer in the fourth inning and left trailing 1-0. He kept his team in the game and the Dragons (26-24) rallied for a 2-1 victory over West Michigan (27-24) to end a three-game losing streak.
“Obviously I didn’t want to give up that home run, but it was still just one run,” Greene said. “And I knew my team was going to come up big.”
Montrell Marshall hit his third homer in the seventh and hot-hitting shortstop Jose Garcia doubled in the winning run in the eighth.
Greene relied on his fastball and threw fewer than 10 non-fastballs. The first two, a changeup and a slider, did not come until the third inning when he faced his eighth batter.
“That’s his main pitch and you gotta use it,” Bolivar said. “You gotta attack with the fastball and go after hitters.”
Greene’s pitch count has increased to 80 giving him a better chance to pitch at least five innings for a shot at being the winning pitcher. He got through five innings by allowing only five baserunners. His two walks were to left-handers and both were erased on double plays.
“It’s beneficial for him that they’ve extended pitches for him and he can go deep in the game and get out of jams sometimes,” Bolivar said. “That’s a learning process right there, so the more he can get involved with that the better and we’re going to see the progression.”
In his previous start, Greene pitched 4 1/3 innings and got the last batter he faced out on a 99 mph fastball. His last pitch Tuesday was 98 mph.
“If you see that for him in the fifth inning, he’s healthy and he’s got a lot in that body,” Bolivar said. “It’s a big frame and good arm. He’s well-prepared conditioning wise.”
Greene’s fastest pitch came in the third inning at 99.6 mph and was hit weakly to the third baseman. He only struck out four, but that didn’t bother him.
“Obviously I didn’t hit my 100 or 101, but it was still live and it still worked,” he said of his fastball. “A lot of movement tonight.”
Greene’s ERA, which was once 14.63, has dropped to 7.18. Bolivar isn’t worried about the numbers right now. He sees improvement and expects Greene’s numbers to be much better by the end of the season.
Greene has also been talking a lot lately about spending more time studying hitters and scouting reports. This was the Dragons’ first game against West Michigan and the first game of the series, so he didn’t have much to go on. But knowledge he is accumulating in his first full pro season seems to be shortening the learning curve from start to start.
“I’m taking as much as I can in, slowing it down,” Greene said. “I’m still trusting myself and getting as much inventory as I can from Seth and guys that are older and guys that have been at this level and played, being able to take little things here and there and implement it.”