Right around this time last year, Shane Greene was promoted from Class-A Advanced Tampa to Double-A Trenton.
We heard he had been pitching well of late in Tampa, had changed his approach and, it was thought, the Double-A Eastern League would be a good test for the then-24-year-old for the second half of the season.
Greene, with a mid-90s fastball, a slider that he can throw in the 86-88 range and change he can spot, went 8-4, 3.18 with the Thunder, besting such heralded prospects as Noah Syndergaard and Nate Karns, helping the Thunder to the Eastern League title and being named the Yankees’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound native of Claremont, Fla., shut down the Baltimore Orioles in the Yankees’ 3-0 win Saturday afternoon in Camden Yards. He pitched 7.1 innings, allowed four hits, no runs, struck out nine and walked two.
“We knew he (Greene) would present a problem.” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “He has good stuff.”
You may not have heard of Greene because, at the 2013 season approached, Greene was struggling. His command was spotty. He wasn’t hitting his spots. Things were not going his way.
“I knew I had to change my approach if I was going to succeed,” Greene said.
He admitted he was not being aggressive enough, not pitching to contact and not letting his fielder’s help him. In addition, giving his walk totals, he was not throwing strikes.
Then, as they say, the light went on. Greene began concentrating on throwing strikes. He began to mix his fastball, which has dipping movement, with his darting slider that can freeze hitters. He began picking up strikeouts with his change on occasion. His style is similar to Sydergaard, with a change that is effective.
“I had to cut down on my walks and throw strikes,” said Greene during his time in Trenton. “The key is you have to pitch to contact and you have to throw strikes. If I can do that, I feel I’m in control of the hitter, not he in control of me.
“If you are not in control, you won;t win.”
Greene followed that mantra and was one of the Eastern League’s best pitchers the last half of the 2013 season and was a major factor in Trenton shocking many by winning the league championship.
“Greene came a long way,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin. “He really learned how to pitch and what he has to do out there.”
Observers both inside and outside the Yankees organization felt Greene improved more than any other pitcher in the system in 2013. Greene then impressed Yankees manager Joe Girardi and staff in spring training before heading back to Triple-A Scranton to start 2014.
Things started off a bit bumpy for him in Scranton, but he got it back together, putting together a 5-2, 4.61 mark in 15 appearances, 13 of which were starts. He maintained a strikeout/walk ratio of 57-26 and struck out 7.73 batters per nine innings. He came to the Yankees after throwing 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts.
Will he finish the 2014 season with a 1.32 ERA? Certainly not. Have the Yankees found a dependable, home-grown starter? Certainly.
As Greene said, “I have to be in control of the hitter.”