Blue Jays’ Greene Acting Like It’s His Time

CLEARWATER, FLA.Conner Greene’s dreams and aspirations have gotten a little bigger in the past year.

It’s not that Greene didn’t have significant dreams before—we’re talking about a baseball player who has made enough acting appearances to have his own IMDB page and to be eligible for a Screen Actor’s Guild card.

But when it came to baseball, Greene’s career had been on a slow climb.

So at spring training last year, the goal was pretty simple—just make it out of extended spring training.

“Last year I was expecting to get to Vancouver. If I work hard, maybe make the Lansing team,” Greene said.

A 2013 seventh-round pick, Greene has not made it to Vancouver in his first two seasons in the Blue Jays organization, so a trip to Lansing would involve skipping a step.

This year, Greene arrived in spring training with an invite to big league camp. He comes into the season with a legitimate chance of helping the big league club at some point in 2016.

“This is I think it’s our year. I would love to contribute to that. That would be the most surreal experience and I think I can contribute to it,” Greene said.

What happened in between to change his perspective?

“I just finally got my fastball command really fine-tuned; that was huge. When I was able to do that, it made my secondary pitches so much more effective,” Greene said.

Greene not only made it to low Class A Lansing last year, he pitched well enough (7-3, 3.88 in 14 starts) to earn a midseason promotion to high Class A Dunedin. After seven starts with Dunedin (and a 2-3, 2.55 record) he earned his second promotion of the year with a bump to Double-A New Hampshire.

Greene’s stats slacked off after his second promotion—he went 3-1, 4.68 while his walk rate jumped from 1.8 walks per nine innings at Dunedin to 4.3 BB/9 at New Hampshire.

That second promotion was in part sped up by the Blue Jays’ massive wave of trades to top off the big league roster in last year’s playoff push. His strikeout rate dropped from 7.9 K/9 to 5.4. But for a pitcher who had never pitched in full season ball before 2015, it was still a solid end to an excellent season.

“It turned out well for me,” Greene said.

There’s still work to be done, but Greene has started to pitch with his fastball instead of just throwing it. Greene’s mid-90s fastball has excellent run, but it wasn’t until last year that he figured out how to tame it.

“Once I developed a feel I started to understand where it would move. I learned to pronate a little to make it move more, or a little less. The puzzle pieces are starting to fit,” Greene said.

The Blue Jays big league staff saw that early this spring. An amped-up Greene pitched two effective outings with the big leaguers. In one of them, he touched 98 mph.

“98 mph IS the upper end (of my velocity). It was adrenaline,” Greene said. “I’m trying to keep the same intensity here. I’m going to try to keep spotting the fastball, hopefully not give up too many dingers on my curveball and I’ll be fine.”

Greene’s curveball is still a little inconsistent—he hung one on Tuesday that veteran Jake Fox turned into a majestically long home run—and his changeup is still a work in progress. But Greene has the building blocks to be a future big league starter—he’s got a fast arm, and he’s still long and lanky with room to grow even though he’s already added 20 pounds since signing.

And all that promise means that acting has been back-burnered, even if Greene is one of the few baseball players with his own professional head shots.

“It’s on hold until I establish my career as a baseball player,” Greene said. “I’m more nervous on the set than I am on the field. This is where I belong. If a job comes up, I’d probably say yes. But baseball first, always.”


It was a star-studded pair of games on the Clearwater backfields Tuesday afternoon. In addition to Greene, Sean Reid-Foley and Mark Appel made their regular turns while Jimmy Cordero added plenty of velocity in a relief appearance. The Blue Jays had Anthony Alford, Roemon Fields and Rowdy Tellez in the lineup facing Appel while Greene matched up against Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams.

As you would expect from a game with that many significant prospects there were plenty of highlights. Facing big leaguer David Hernandez, Tellez hit one of the longest doubles possible when he drove a ball high off the batter’s eye in center field—if he had hit the ball anywhere other than center field it would have easily cleared the fence for a home run.

So after getting robbed of a home run, Tellez followed it up by hitting another lengthy shot against Appel. This one wasn’t to straight center, so it easily cleared the fence.

Alford’s preternatural plate discipline was on display as he walked in each of his first two at-bats and later singled. Crawford had a two-run double and a single. Williams hit a double.

But it was a rough day for Appel. Berti homered against Appel as part of a three-run first inning of work. Appel gave up another run, this one unearned, in his second inning of work and then a fifth run on Tellez’s home run in his third inning.
Appel still generated strikeouts with his slider, but his fastball was flat at times and lacked premium velocity as he sat 90-92 mph for most of his outing.

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