Renewed Focus Aids Conner Greene In Quest For Command
There were times for righthander Conner Greene when his command seemed as fleeting and agitated as his focus, and these issues were not coincidental.
The 22-year-old saw his ERA bloat to 5.29 and his walk rate spike to 5.6 per nine innings at Double-A New Hampshire in 2017. As a result his ranking in the Blue Jays' system, once as lofty as No. 4, slipped all the way to another organization.
The Cardinals acquired him along with reliever Dominic Leone on the eve of spring training for outfielder Randal Grichuk, and even they did not know the complete story behind Greene’s flighty production. Greene told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had a bad reaction to medication prescribed for his ADHD, and instead of providing calm, the medication gave him only disruption.
His erratic performance unspooled from there.
"It was like a rolling stone,” he said. "When your head is not in the right place, you start doing bad. When you start doing bad, you start trying to do other things to overcompensate for a problem that really isn’t there. So then you develop bad habits. I had to simplify.”
Enrolled in gymnastics at age 4 to improve his agility and flexibility, Greene was raised for baseball. Velocity came later, following his seventh-round selection in 2013 out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High.
The 6-foot-4 righthander has a lithe frame that added muscle as a pro, and early in his pro career he started zipping fastballs at 97 mph. The first time he saw a number that high on the scoreboard, he took a look at his arm.
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"What the heck?” he asked himself.
He would go on to hit 100 mph, and that was part of the appeal for the Cardinals.
In the same offseason that they traded Sandy Alcantara, who hit 102 mph, the Cardinals restocked their system with several trades, including the one for Greene. In the righthander, they saw a power righthander who could be a reliever or a starter who maintains his velocity. He came to spring training to help the Cardinals decide role in the minors and proximity to the majors.
"I’m walking in here,” Greene said. "I’ve got something to prove.”