MLB hasn’t had a Black Cy Young award winner since 2012, when a young David Price earned the award for his outstanding pitching as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hunter Greene Finally Hits The Show
So, when the Cincinnati Reds drafted Hunter Greene with the No. 2 overall pick out of Notre Dame HS in California in the 2017 MLB draft, they envisioned days like Sunday against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
It took five years of nurturing by the organization and an unexpected setback due to an arm injury for the talented pitcher to finally toe the hill.
In his major league debut, the hard-throwing Greene didn’t disappoint, as he topped out at 101 mph while striking out seven Braves batters and allowing three runs over five innings in the Reds’ 6-3 win.
Greene, who went 10-8 over stints with Double-A Chattanooga and the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate with a 3.97 ERA, flashed some of the brilliance that made the Reds brass giddy about picking an 18-year-old so high in 2017.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 10, 2022
Even without the services of former NL MVP Freddie Freeman, the Braves still have one of baseball’s best lineups. Adding productive hitter Matt Olson in his place isn’t a downgrade. So for Greene to pitch as well as he did is a great sign for the Reds.
Greene analyzed his performance in the postgame presser. It’s been a long time coming and he checked all the boxes.
“This is the most pitches I’ve thrown this year. … Got a little tired toward the end as expected. Ball started to leak a little bit over the plate. That wasn’t the focus. That’s not what I was trying to do. I was aware of that, but you’ve still got to go out and just throw it.”
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) April 10, 2022
Greene’s small struggles late in his electric start (gave up two homers) isn’t something to be concerned about. Facing a lineup that features Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and Adam Duvall even makes the elite veteran pitchers uncomfortable at times. Greene showed such composure and grit, even after surrendering a few runs. The optimism within the Reds organization is higher than Lil Wayne at a Coachella concert.
Hunter Greene 💯⛽️
1st MLB K pic.twitter.com/IX1PEIJWR6
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 10, 2022
Reds manager David Bell understands that Greene still has to go through the ups and downs of a novice hurler — it’s all part of the learning process.
At times his historic fastball and nasty slider will make him look like the second coming of Black ace Dwight Gooden. Greene will also struggle as he gets acclimated with the league.
“Sometimes as a pitcher, you see where you get a big lead and all of a sudden you do start changing,” Bell said Sunday. “You still have to stay aggressive, so it’s such a fine line. And that’s what I think he did a good job of. He was aware of the score, he was pitching to the score in the back season of his mind, but he continued to trust his plan.”
Reds Want Greene To Lead Young, Talented Staff: He’s Got All The Tools
While the Reds still have solid pros such as franchise stalwart Joey Votto, Luis Castill,o and Jonathan India, this team is in transition, making Greene’s development into the ace of the staff even more imperative. Greene and lefty Nick Lodolo are the anchors of a pitching staff that’s sure to cause much excitement in “Cincy.”
Greene’s fastball, which is the pride of his arsenal, hovers around 97-102 mph. He’s got a slider that’s becoming nasty and clocks in the low-to-mid 80s. The final pitch in Greene’s repertoire is his changeup, which is a work in progress but will benefit him greatly following the heater and slider.
If Greene ever masters the change, he will become nearly unhittable. Once he masters that third pitch and logs some substantial MLB innings, stardom should be his next destination.
Hunter Greene, Filthy 87mph Slider. 😷 pic.twitter.com/IKYDauRb2N
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 10, 2022
Price and CC are the last of MLB’s Black Aces
Black starting pitchers are rare these days in pro baseball. The last Black pitcher to win 20 games was the aforementioned Price. Former Yankees ace CC Sabathia did it in 2009. There have been 15 throughout MLB history, starting with the legendary Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe.
Sabathia went 21-7 with the Yankees in 2010 after signing a huge free agent deal and then leading the Yankees to their first World Series in almost a decade in 2009. Price went 20-5 as the ace workhorse for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.
Braves Players Were Impressed With Greene’s Arsenal
Greene showed great command of his bread-and-butter pitch, which allowed him to stay ahead of hitters in the count. Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson took notice of Greene’s talent and plus-command on the mound.
“Yes, he throws super hard,” Swanson said Sunday. “But if you’ve got fastball command, you can get anybody out consistently. That’s what he did. The only balls that got hit hard were fastballs that were more center cut.”
With the way pitching philosophy and metrics-driven culture has changed in the past decade, we may never see another Black 20-game winner again. But Greene has an opportunity, along with Cleveland Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie, to launch a new era of Black pitching excellence.