Reds' Hunter Greene is an All-Star after an offseason of changes to his preparation, arsenal

CINCINNATI — Upon learning that he’d been selected to his first All-Star Game, Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Hunter Greene said his first thought was about this Thursday, not next Tuesday’s game in Arlington, Texas.

“I have a bullpen today, I’ve got to go out and make sure I handle my business and get ready for Thursday,” Greene said he remembered thinking when Reds manager David Bell closed the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon to tell the 24-year-old Greene that he’d been named an All-Star, replacing Dodgers right-hander Tyler Glasnow.

Greene will start Thursday’s series finale against the Colorado Rockies, his first with an All-Star selection on his resume.

“I probably won’t be able to take it all in until later tonight or tomorrow,” Greene said of the honor.

To Greene, it’s no coincidence that his focus on his routine and his preparation is why he’s headed to Texas next week alongside teammate Elly De La Cruz and Bell, who will serve on Torey Lovullo’s staff.

“This offseason I really looked at myself in the mirror and asked what I really need to do this offseason to be able to go out and throw a complete season,” Greene said.

Greene said he started from scratch, working out his throwing program, his recovery program and even how to mentally prepare for each start.

Last season Greene was on the injured list with hip pain for two months from the middle of June to the middle of August. As a rookie in 2022, he spent six weeks on the IL with a right shoulder sprain. He suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in 2018 and missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Staying on the field is still the biggest goal Greene has ahead of him this season, but the All-Star nod is a nice reminder that what he’s doing has put him in the right direction.

Greene is 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA. In his four losses, the team has scored a total of seven runs, five of those in one outing. Overall, the Reds have scored two or fewer runs in eight of his 18 starts.

Among the changes that have led to his success are the additions of a split-finger fastball and a curveball to his fastball and slider, while ditching the changeup. Greene’s fastball, which averages 97.7 mph, has been his calling card, but his 31.3 percent whiff percentage on the split is better than that of his fastball (25.6 percent).

The third (and fourth) pitch has been seen as the difference between what Greene has been and what he can become, or the difference between a promising young pitcher and an All-Star.

“Those two have been huge pitches for him this year,” said catcher Tyler Stephenson of Greene’s split-finger fastball and curveball.

“We forget how much success Hunter has had in his lifetime already and definitely in his major-league career,” Bell said. “But he had the courage to really take a deep dive into what he needed to do to take all areas of his game to another level and it’s shown up. The growth this season has been incredible and he’s put some things into place that now’s the time, because he’s got so much ahead of him.”

Even Greene’s speech upon getting the news showed that growth, Bell noted.

Greene thanked his catchers, bullpen catchers and coaches.

“He has a great support system around … but to me, what’s been most impressive is that even with that support system, he recognized there was some things he needed to do better,” Bell said. “From the end of last season through the offseason and up until today, it’s just a different level of dedication to all areas of his game.”

Greene, 24, is the youngest Reds starting pitcher to be named to an All-Star Game since Mike LaCoss in 1979. This was days after De La Cruz became the youngest Reds hitter to be named to an All-Star team since Johnny Bench in 1969.

Going to Texas with De La Cruz will be significant, Greene noted, because it represents just what this Reds team can become. Greene signed a six-year, $53 million extension with a club option for another year last April. At the time, it raised eyebrows with the team coming off a 100-loss season. But Greene said then he was bullish on staying in Cincinnati for the long haul. He foresaw a future that included not just himself as an All-Star, but others too. This, of course, was before most of the rest of the world got their first looks at De La Cruz.

“It was understanding who was coming up in the system,” Greene said. “We saw guys like Rece (Hinds) (Monday) night, it was one game, but for him to be able to feel comfortable and perform like that in his debut is not easy. I know there are a lot more players — (starters) Nick Lodolo and Andrew Abbott could’ve easily made the All-Star team as well. I believe (Jonathan India) had a good case. … It’s more than just myself and Elly, in my opinion.”

(Photo of Hunter Greene: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

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