Hunter Greene will throw his first pitch Saturday night at 7:07 and possibly hit 100 mph. But it’s not only his velocity and the pitch-calling that will affect his pitching. His routine in the three hours before that first pitch matters, too.
“To the normal fan who doesn’t really understand pro ball, they think you show up at six o’clock for a seven o’clock game,” said Dayton Dragons pitching Seth Etherton.
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Etherton asks his pitchers to arrive at the ballpark three hours early on days they start. This is still a new process for Greene, whose routine a year ago included a day in high school.
“From the time you actually get to the ballpark, you should know your routine to the minute of what you need to do when you’re at home and on the road,” Etherton said. “That’s hopefully something I can really help him out with.”
Greene is leaning on Etherton’s experience as a fellow first-round draft pick with major-league experience to help him reduce the learning curve.
“Being able to master that routine, know what you have to do each day, the game day and the days before and the days after,” Greene said. “So you’ve got to know what you’ve got to do, how your body feels and really listen to our arm.”
Greene, the Cincinnati Reds’ high-profile first-round draft pick a year ago, has struggled in his early days with the Dragons. He’s pitched six innings in three starts and has a 13.50 earned run average. In his last start on Monday, he recorded two outs and gave up seven runs, including a grand slam.
“There might be some struggles here and there, but it doesn’t define who I am as a pitcher,” Greene said.
Greene says he’s looking at his young career as a process of learning how to mentally and physically prepare to pitch every fifth day.
“I’m still going out there and trusting my pitches, trusting my philosophy of how I’m going to pitch these guys, just continuing to compete and be the same guy every time I step on the field,” he said.
Coming out of high school followed by a short season of rookie league ball, Greene will pitch more innings this summer than he ever has. He’s on a three-innings limit to start this season. After not making it out of the first inning Monday, Greene is ready for Saturday night’s start against Fort Wayne.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve already thrown a couple games so I’m used to it. I don’t have a lot of nerves or anything so I’m just ready to go out and compete again.”
Etherton was Greene’s pitching coach last summer in Billings, Montana. The struggles on the mound have not changed his mind about Greene’s potential to be the big-league pitcher he is expected to become.
“When the product’s all done,” Etherton said, “it’s going to be very, very good.”