The opposition couldn't figure out Conner Greene on Saturday, but the reason for his success was not complicated.
"Fastball command -- very simple," the 23-year-old right-hander said. "I was getting ahead of guys, using my fastball command in the zone and being able to expand the zone."
Perfect after the opening frame, Greene allowed one hit and one walk while striking out eight over six innings as Double-A Springfield blanked Midland, 5-0, in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Hammons Field.
Gameday box score
The 21st-ranked Cardinals prospect surrendered a one-out single to Eli White in the first, walked A's No. 18 prospect Tyler Ramirez and hit eighth-ranked Sean Murphy to load the bases. With a 1-0 offering to Seth Brown, he induced a double play to get out of the jam.
"You're one pitch away from greatness and you're one pitch away three runs," Greene said. "I took a deep breath and got the deep breath. Maybe it's luck, but it changes the whole momentum because if that's a double in the gap, the next deep breath comes with the next batter up and a couple runs in."
Greene (1-1) fanned four in a row over the second and third innings and struck out the side in the fifth. After six frames, he'd thrown 52 of 82 pitches for strikes.
Video: Greene records another K for the Cardinals
"There were times [during that stretch when] I actually eliminated the batter, where I didn't see the name in the box," he said. "You know, there are times when you see how he gets in the box and you [start thinking too much]. I didn't, I just didn't feel it. I was just executing what [catcher Andrew Knizner] was putting down. We were on point, and it was a great time."
Acquired from Toronto in January in the trade involving Randal Grichuk, the California native gave up three runs on three hits and two walks without getting out of the second inning in his season debut -- also against Midland.
"One hundred percent, my mindset was different," Greene said. "[Saturday], I was pitching more to contact, more in the zone, not being afraid. At this level, I think what differentiates a Minor Leaguer and a big leaguer, is after you give up that hit or that home run, now what are you going to do? Are you going to start pitching scared, or are you going to man up and keep feeding in the zone? I had a great mindset today."
Greene also is coming off his most difficult season as a pro. In March, he told MLB.com that anxiety from a switch in his medication for ADHD had him "pitching like a weeny," leading to a career-high 5.62 ERA and a career-high 83 walks in 26 games, including 25 starts, for Double-A New Hampshire in the Eastern League.
Putting that year behind him with a fresh start in a new organization "is massive," he said.
"I feel like I got a second chance. I feel like I get to prove to the Cardinals what I proved to the Blue Jays, what I prove to myself every start. It's getting that confidence, that swagger, and it's huge."
Righty Landon Beck got the ball for the seventh and worked around a hit and a walk with three strikeouts to finish off Springfield's win.
Cardinals No. 26 prospect Tommy Edman smacked a two-run homer.
In the nightcap, Ramirez hit a two-run jack to help the RockHounds to a 4-3 win.