Sunday Notes: Kyle Boddy is Bullish on Hunter Greene

The Cincinnati Reds have been eagerly awaiting Hunter Greene’s return from Tommy John surgery. And for good reason. Prior to going under the knife 15 months ago he was hitting triple digits with his heater. Drafted second overall by the Reds in 2017 out of a Sherman Oaks, California high school, Greene is No. 77 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list.

According to Kyle Boddy, his return is nigh. Cincinnati’s pitching coordinator recently spent time with Greene in California, and he deemed the 20-year-old’s rehab “basically done.” Throwing in front of a Rapsoto, Greene was “an easy 97-plus [mph], reaching 100-101 when he was rearing back.”

More than a return to health is buoying the return to form. With the help of technology — “he’s really getting into the metrics and analytics” — and a former Chicago White Sox pitcher, Greene has made a meaningful change to his delivery. What had been “long arm action with a big wrap in the back” is now a shorter-and-cleaner stroke.

“That’s a credit to people like James Baldwin, who was the rehab coach and is now our Triple-A coach,” Boddy told me. “JB has worked with Hunter extensively, leaning on materials from Driveline Plus. Hunter has had a tendency to cut his fastball, so we’ve relied on a lot of video to show him how to fix that and get more carry.”

Moreover, there’s Trevor Bauer. Greene and Bauer are from the same area, and they’ve worked together often, both in Los Angeles and Arizona. They’ve also talked shop on FaceTime. The cerebral hurlers once utilized that medium for a multi-hour discussion on mechanics.

Greene is more than a mentee. He’s also a mentor.

“Hunter is working with a kid named Alex Johnson,” explained Boddy. “I won’t talk too much about it, but Alex is a high school kid we drafted out of Buffalo [in the 36th round]. Alex probably threw 20 innings, at the most, in four years. He basically never pitched — he played basketball — but our scouts saw him and really liked the way his arm works. Hunter has been mentoring him in LA, so I got to work with both of them when I was down there.”

Greene’s work has included some fine-tuning of his best secondary pitch, and the strides have been nothing to sneeze at. To say that Boddy is bullish on the youngster’s slider would be an understatement.

“His breaking ball is unbelievable,” crowed Boddy. “I think that’s going to be a big eye opener for some scouts who had seen him. The report on Hunter is that he throws 100, and his fastball has a little bit of life, but his breaking ball isn’t a plus pitch. That’s very far from the truth right now. Hunter’s slider is truly a plus-plus pitch. Of course, we’ll have to see in games if he can command it, and use it correctly. There’s the gamesmanship of the game, and he hasn’t played for a long time.”

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Mark Trumbo hit 218 home runs — 47 of them in the 2016 season — so it’s fair to say he had a successful big-league career. Looking back, it’s worth noting that his career was originally going to be on the mound. In 2004, the Anaheim Angels drafted Trumbo out of a Villa Park, California high school as a pitcher. It was only because of a failed physical — his elbow had some red flags — that he became an outfielder/first baseman.

His first full professional season had him reconsidering the switch. Playing for low-A Cedar Rapids, Trumbo slashed a woeful .220/.293/.355, and the swing-and-miss that would dog him most of his career reared its ugly head. Pitches near the bottom of the zone were a particular problem; most anything from mid-thigh down was an invitation to whiff.

Darren O’Day saw those struggles first hand. Not only that, he was recruited to provide some advice.

“I remember a moment from when we were teammates in Cedar Rapids,” O’Day said. “Mark was like, ‘Hey Darren, l want to throw a flat-ground tomorrow; come out to the outfield early, before batting practice. I want you to tell me if I’ve still got the stuff.’ I went out there and caught him, and he still had it. He had a good four-seamer with late jump — the one that everybody wants now, where it kind of looks like the ball accelerates — and he had a really good changeup as well. Mark was considering being a pitcher again, but then he was able to figure out the hitting part and went on to have a good career.”

O’Day couldn’t have followed a similar path. Not even close.

“Casual baseball fans — people who go to the games like social events — sometimes ask me if I’m a good hitter,” said O’Day. “I’m like, ‘No,’ and they say, ‘Why not?’ Then have to explain that it’s two completely different skill sets. They’ll be like ‘Oh, wow. I never really thought of it like that.’ So for those guys — the select few that have have both skill sets — it’s pretty cool to see. They’re unicorns, man.”

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Jim Deshaies and Larry Andersen aren’t unicorns. Neither of the pitchers-turned-broadcasters could hit a lick. Andersen slashed .132/.195/.132 as a big-leaguer, while Deshaies slashed .088/.141/.088. That ineptitude came up when I asked Deshaies about his longtime friend.

“We have this ongoing debate about who the better hitter was, because we both stunk,” Deshaies told me recently. “Jayson Stark and Tim Caple had this long-raging debate, and they ultimately did a simulated game of nine Deshaies versus nine Andersens. I beat him 1-0. I’m not sure how the run scored. Somebody must have made an error.”

I asked the self-deprecating Deshaies if it’s true that he holds the record for most career at bats without an extra-base hit.

“That is correct,” he responded. “I had it, I have it, and who knows, with the National Lague adopting the DH, it might be mine forever.” (Deshaies had 373 PAs.)

Somewhat surprisingly, he’s not a fan of the DH.

“I actually enjoyed the try,” Deshaies said. “And I don’t want [a DH] now. I love stories of pitchers hitting… like the day Bartolo Colon hit the home run. I mean, that was a huge deal. People had a lot of fun with it. Dave McNally hit a grand slam in the World Series. That’s all going to go away.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Mike Hampton went 4 for 4 against Fernando Valenzuela.

Dontrelle Willis went 4 for 7 against Tomo Ohka.

Greg Maddux went 4 for 9 against Orel Hershiser.

Ken Brett went 6 for 7 against Burt Hooton.

Carlos Zambrano went 8 for 18 against Chris Carpenter.

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Deshaies believes that John Elway would have been a big-leaguer had be pursued baseball rather than football. That’s not to suggest the Denver Broncos legend made the wrong decision. Elway was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1982, Elway and Deshaies were teammates with short-season Oneonta in the Yankees system. Deshaies had been drafted in the 21st round that year out of Le Moyne College, while Elway had been selected 52nd overall out of Stanford a year earlier.

“He was a big, strong guy who ran well, and he obviously had a really good outfield arm,” Deshaies said of Elway. “Another thing I remember is that he was a really good bunter; he could drag bunt. Baseball America did a Top 10 prospects list for the league, and I think John was on it.”

Deshaies has a good memory; Elway was indeed ranked among the New York-Penn League’s top prospects list following that season. Moreover — this despite the near certainty that he would eschew baseball for football — Elways was ranked No.1.

And then there was Baseball America’s Yankees Top Prospects list. Elway topped that one as well. Further down, at No. 9, was a first baseman/outfielder named Don Mattingly.

“My hunch is that he would have ended up being a good big-league player,” said Deshaies. “I mean, with the athleticism he had… and guys that skilled have the ability to make adjustments. I think George Steinbrenner maybe thought he could convince him to play baseball, but there was no doubt that it was just a summer job for John.”

It was a fun summer job, both on and off the field. Elway slashed .318/.432/.464 in 185 plate appearances, and once the games were over… well, the first-overall pick of the 1983 NFL draft was just one of the boys.

“We were all living in a frat house,” recalled Deshaies. “There were like 12 or 14 of us, and it would be, ‘Hey John, buy a keg of beer. Hey, John, buy some pizza.’ He was great. A great teammate, a good guy.”

A good enough guy to sometimes pony up for a keg or a few boxes of slices?

“Oh yeah,” acknowledged Deshaies. “He hooked us up.”

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A quiz:

Two players have recorded three hits in a single inning. Who are they?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

Adam Jones is slashing .245/.273/.396 with two home runs in 55 plate appearances with the Orix Buffaloes. NPB’s top hitter has been Kazuma Okamoto; the 24-year-old Yomiuri Giants infielder is slashing .426/.483/.778 with five home runs in 60 plate appearances. Another standout has been Stefen Romero; the former Seattle Mariner is slashing .383/.473/.809 with four home runs in 55 plate appearances with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Adrian Devine, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers from 1973-1980, died in late June at age 68. Exclusively a reliever, Devine had his best season in 1977 when he went 11-6 with 15 saves and a 3.58 ERA.

Tyson Brummett, who pitched in one game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, was killed in a private-plane crash earlier this week. A Spanish Fork, Utah native, Brummett was 35 years old.

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The answer to the quiz is Johnny Damon and Gene Stephens, each of whom turned the trick for the Boston Red Sox. Damon had a single, double, and triple in the first inning of a June 27, 2003 game against the Florida Marlins. Stephens had two singles and a double in the seventh innings of a June 18, 1953 game against the Detroit Tigers.

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Saber-friendly baseball fans are well-acquainted with the “Kill the Win” proposal popularized by Brian Kenny. With that in mind, has the time come to introduce “Kill the Loss” to baseball’s vernacular? Because of the new rule that will put a runner at second base in extra innings, more than a few pitchers are going to incur losses through little fault of their own — think a sacrifice bunt followed by a run-scoring slow roller.

Rather than upping the number in the pitcher’s Loss column, perhaps we should log the result in a newly-created column. Maybe call it a’ Manfred’?

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A pair of quotes as we proceed cautiously toward a truncated MLB season amid a pandemic:

“Baseball is the most important thing in life that doesn’t matter”—Robert B. Parker.

“In the great department store of life, baseball is the toy department”—Anonymous.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Japan Times, Jason Coskrey wrote about how Lotte Marines pitcher Jay Jackson is inspired by demonstrations for racial equality around the world.

Baseball America’s Matt Eddy highlighted the best 25-and-under stars from Latin America.

At The Des Moines Register, Tommy Birch wrote about what the cancelled 2020 minor league season means for Iowa’s teams.

At The Detroit Free Press, Anthony Fenech wrote about how Tigers pitching prospect Matt Manning seems ready to push the envelope.

ESPN’s Joon Lee looked into the rise of MLB’s Ivy League culture, and what comes next.

Which farm systems boast the best outfielders? Jim Callis shared his Top 10 at MLB.com.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Three players in history have hit three home runs and had a sacrifice bunt in the same game: Don Demeter with the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 21, 1959, Willie Kirkland with the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1961, and Bill Madlock with the Detroit Tigers on June 28, 1987. (Per James Smythe)

Hall of Fame right-hander Dizzy Dean had 150 wins, a 3.02 ERA and 40.9 WAR.
Non-Hall of Fame righty Dizzy Trout had 170 wins, a 3.23 ERA, and 47.6 WAR.

Roger Bresnahan was the first catcher to don shin guards. The Hall of Famer began wearing them in 1908 with the New York Giants.

On July 3, 1966, Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams — and threw a complete game — to lead the Atlanta Braves to a 17-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.

On July 3, 1968, Luis Tiant fanned 19 batters over 10 scoreless innings as the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0.

On July 4, 1905, Rube Waddell and Cy Young each went the distance as the Philadelphia A’s beat the Boston Americans 4-2, in 20 innings.

On July 5, 1955, Johnny Temple hit a two-out, walk-off single to give the Cincinnati Reds a 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Temple’s at bat was immediately preceded by a bench-clearing brawl initiated by Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts throwing a punch at Cardinals manager Harry Walker, who then wrestled Tebbetts to the ground.

On July 6, 2008, Marcus Thames hit a 15th-inning sacrifice fly to lift the Detroit Tigers to a 2-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. The losing pitcher was Jamie Burke, who entered the game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement at the catcher position.

Players born on this date include Hod Eller, who pitched and won the deciding game of the 1919 World Series. The Cincinnati Reds right-hander had thrown a shutout against the Chicago “Black Sox” three days earlier.

Also born on this date is Rick Lancellotti, whose 328 professional home runs included just two in MLB. Lancellotti hit 268 in the minors, 58 in Japan, and two with the San Francisco Giants in 1986.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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sadtrombone
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Member
sadtrombone

“demonstrations for racial quality” are…not what I think you intended to write.

John Elway
Member

“pony up for a keg”, on the other hand….

Just neighing.

J. Paquin
Member
J. Paquin

Racial quality, lol. Funny how a simple letter “e” makes a big difference!