Even without his customary preparation -- or his 100 mph fastball -- Hunter Greene still produced arguably his best outing as a pro.
MLB.com's No. 20 overall prospect pitched a career-high five innings, allowing three hits and a run, as Class A Dayton rallied for a 2-1 victory over West Michigan on Tuesday at Fifth Third Field.
Gameday box score
The second overall pick in last year's Draft struck out four and walked two, yielding his only run in the fourth. He did not figure in the decision as he was matched by West Michigan right-hander Elvin Rodriguez, who recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts over seven innings, giving up a run on three hits.
"I felt great," the Southern California native said on the Dragons' postgame show. "I went out and executed my pitches. I really didn't have time to go over the hitters like I wanted just because we're on the road and we didn't have a lot of information on these guys. I just had to trust my stuff and go out there and compete.
Video: Greene's fourth strikeout of the game for Dayton
"Obviously, I didn't hit my 100 or 101 [mph], but it was still live and it still worked. A lot of movement tonight."
Greene, MLB.com's No. 20 overall prospect, also reached a career best with 79 pitches and is gradually increasing that number, rising from the mid-50s to start the season to more than 70 in his past three starts.
Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said Greene's pitch count is 85, unless the organization tells him otherwise.
"For now, that's the number we have. Unless something changes, that's the way we're going to go. It'll help him develop," he said.
Greene has dropped his ERA from 10.06 to 7.18 in his last two outings.
Pitching coach Seth Etherton attributes that, at least partly, to Greene concentrating on the mound.
"As a pitcher -- you can ask him, too -- in high school, he could pitch and go play shortstop and hit," the former big league right-hander said. "Now he sees his professional future is as a pitcher, and it's about developing routines and figuring it out."
"I'm taking as much as I can in, slowing it down, but 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 and being able to take little things here and there and implement it," he said.
As good as Greene's fastball is, Etherton recognizes the need to brush up the secondary offerings.
"That's one thing he's working on," he said. "His fastball is 95-100 plus, but we need something that looks like a fastball with late depth. It's about making sure he stays on top of the ball with downward angle and it comes in at about 86-87 and it's a wipeout pitch. He's still finding that.
"The changeup, he never had to throw many in his career, but he has aptitude and is showing feel for the pitch. He's very athletic, so that's coming along very nicely."
Shut out for six innings by Rodriguez, the Dragons tied it in the seventh on Montrell Marshall's homer to left-center field. They grabbed the lead an inning later against reliever Oswaldo Castillo when Reds No. 11 prospect Jose Garcia doubled home 27th-ranked Miles Gordon.
Wendolyn Bautista (3-3) pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Greene to get the win and John Ghyzel notched his Midwest League-leading 10th save, despite loading the bases in the ninth on two walks and a wild third strike.
As well as Rodriguez pitched, Greene was the story with his longest outing as a pro. The prep shortstop received a bonus pool-era record $7.23 million bonus last June and Reds allowed him to DH in addition to pitching during his pro debut with Rookie-level Billings.
As a two-way standout at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, Hunter Greene could have pushed the Reds to allow him to play both ways as a pro, a la Brendan McKay.
Instead, he focused on the mound and has gradually seen results. On Tuesday, he produced his best to date.
"I trusted my defense and they did their thing tonight. They're all talented and they're all behind me and ready to go," he said.
"Obviously I didn't want to give up that home run but it was still just one run. And I knew my team was going to come up big."