Pioneer notes: Greene geared up to pitch

Reds' top pick ready for second start after stint as Mustangs' DH

Hunter Greene, the second overall pick in the 2017 Draft, has made one start on the mound and seven at DH. (Dean Hendrickson/Billings Mustangs)

By Fritz Neighbor / Special to | September 1, 2017 10:00 AM

He's been a Pioneer League hitter for all of seven games, and now Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in the June Draft, can't wait to stretch out his arm. 

"I've always been a pitcher," said the Billings Mustangs' right-hander, who stands 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. "And I'm excited to see where it takes me."

After a tantalizing 15-pitch debut Aug. 27, Greene figures he'll get 30-35 pitches Sept. 1 when the Mustangs play at the Missoula Osprey. In the meantime, he's drawing no designater hitter duties. He hit .233 with three extra-base hits in seven games as a DH from Aug. 8-23.

Video: Billings' Greene doubles in a run

"Being able to focus on one position, I think it might make me a lot better," Greene said. "It's a question of being good or great. I want to be great. It's why I think sticking with pitching is going to be awesome."

Greene, who turned 18 on Aug. 6, said the move to the mound came after he talked with his coaches. He didn't want to be specific, and Mustangs' manager Ray Martinez tempered Greene's comments by saying he could return to the hitting lineup sooner rather than later.

"He might still hit, after this start," Martinez said. "But for now we want him to understand the process between starts."

The first outing went well, with his fastball reaching 100 mph. Mark Kolozsvary drew the catching duties, which was fitting: He'd caught some heat before.

"Jackson Kowar," Kolozsvary said. "I think he hit 99 at Florida."

Whatever problems that might have been foreseen didn't materialize. 

"It was a good experience," said Kolozsvary, a seventh-round pick in 2017 after winning the College World Series with the Gators. "He's real accurate with his stuff. I just sat back there and he threw to the mitt. It was cool to catch his first professional outing."

In late April, Greene made the cover of Sports Illustrated -- a profile that posited his potential to be a position player at the highest level (he's a shortstop) and also pitch. Whatever he decides, he's decidedly can't-miss.

"It's whatever he wants to do," Martinez said. "He's obviously a great athlete. It's not up to me -- it's up to the organization.
"It's not easy hitting, and it's not easy doing both. But if anybody can do it, it's him."

In brief

On the hunt: Torii Hunter Jr.'s first year of professional baseball has gone quite well -- the Orem left fielder is hitting .331, good for ninth in the Pioneer League, and has scored 42 runs, which ranks 11th. The younger Hunter was a standout receiver at Notre Dame before a concussion pointed him toward the diamond -- "It knocked some sense into me," he told -- and he was taken in the 23rd round of the 2016 Draft by the Los Angeles Angels. The elder Hunter recently wrapped up a 19-year Major League career with 353 home runs.

Unique voyage: In 2016 Kyle Von Ruden went 7-3 with the Hawai'i Rainbows and 1-7 with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League. Now he's a Pioneer League All-Star after rolling up a 3-3 record and the league's second-best ERA (3.66) for the Great Falls Voyagers. The Chicago White Sox signed the durable righty in June, and the 23-year-old loved getting the chance. "I can't give it up yet, man," Von Ruden told the Great Falls Tribune after eight innings of two-hit ball on July 7.

Fritz Neighbor is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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