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Braves face Reds prospect Hunter Greene in going for series win

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Apr 5, 2022; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene against the Seattle Mariners during a spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of baseball’s most heralded pitching prospects makes his major league debut Sunday against the defending World Series champions.

Hard-throwing Cincinnati right-hander Hunter Greene takes the hill for the first time as the visiting Reds and Atlanta Braves conclude their season-opening four-game series.

Greene, at 22 years, 247 days, will become the youngest Cincinnati starting pitcher to make his big league debut since Mike Leake received no decision in a 3-1 Reds win on April 11, 2010, against the Cubs.

Greene was selected by the Reds in the first round (second overall) of the June 2017 first-year player draft and was rated by MLB.com the best overall prospect in that draft. He missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The 22-year-old split the 2021 season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. In 21 starts combined, he went 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA. In his first Triple-A inning, Greene struck out three but also allowed three homers. He also threw a pitch recorded at 104.3 mph.

Greene spent spring training improving his secondary pitches, including his slider and changeup. In his March 26 start against the Giants, Greene threw two scoreless innings, including several changeups of at least 91 mph.

“I’ve been working on that a lot in the offseason,” Greene said. “I take a lot of pride in my changeup now, really more than any other pitch. The fastball is great, the slider is cool, but the changeup is where my mind is at, and I’m really happy with that.”

Greene was tagged for four homers in four spring appearances, three of them starts, allowing 13 hits and nine runs — seven earned – covering nine innings. He struck out 11 while walking three, posting an 0-1 mark with a 7.00 ERA.

The Reds hope to provide Greene with continued stellar defense. In the last two games, center fielder Nick Senzel has made several diving catches, including a lunging stab of a fly ball to right-center. The Reds also threw out Matt Olson at the plate twice on Saturday.

“The defense is so important, and our guys work so hard at it,” Reds manager David Bell said. “The play Senzel made was incredible. One of the best I’ve seen. Our outfielders practice that a lot, throwing the guy out at the plate, keeping that run off the board.”

The Braves counter with a young pitcher of their own who already owns a World Series ring. Ian Anderson (9-5, 3.58 in 2021) makes his first start of 2022.

Anderson left his final spring training start on Monday against Tampa Bay as a precaution with a blister on his right toe after allowing three hits and one run over three innings.

He has faced the Reds twice, once in 2020 and again in 2021. Last June 26, Anderson allowed five hits and three runs, striking out nine and walking just one in a 4-1 Reds win in Cincinnati.

In the 2020 postseason, however, Anderson shut the Reds out over six innings in the second game of their wild-card series. He allowed two hits, two walks and struck out nine.

After losing their season opener on Thursday, the Braves have received strong starting pitching from Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright in consecutive nights, both ending in wins. Wright, who was roughed up in two outings in 2021, rebounded with six shutout innings Saturday.

“He’s unbelievable,” Will Smith told Braves television after Smith saved Wright’s third career win Saturday. “I’m excited to watch Kyle Wright all year.”

As for those rings, Braves manager Brian Snitker was in awe of the new addition to his jewelry collection.

“I’ll probably have to get out and look at it and still pinch myself every morning,” Snitker said. The ring features a lighted ‘A’ surrounded by diamonds.

“It’s unbelievable,” Snitker said.

–Field Level Media