By BRADEN LAYER Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just seven days before the start of the Louisville baseball season, Effingham graduate and Cardinal pitcher Chad Green had no idea where he would appear in coach Dan McDonell’s rotation.
As a sophomore, Green was used primarily as a spot starter, building an impressive 5-0 record with a 2.70 ERA. Coming off of that, he figured he would likely crack the rotation.
“I didn’t know officially until a week before the season,” Green said. “I knew I was going to be a starter, but I didn’t know where it was going to be.”
Then McDonell gave him quite the humbling honor, as Green was penciled in as the starter for the Cardinals’ opener against Indiana on Feb. 15.
“I guess you could call it the one spot,” Green said. “It doesn’t really matter, I’m pitching on the weekend, the Friday role. It’s a great honor, especially with all the good arms we have. We have so many guys that can throw.”
Green suffered a loss in the opening game of the season against the Hoosiers, but has rebounded well from there. The strong-armed junior pitched seven innings against Akron one week later, allowing just one hit while striking out three Zips in a 7-0 shutout that gave him his first win of the season.
The nod of confidence carried over into his next few outings, as Green picked up a win in Lousville’s 14-2 victory over Kent State on March 1. Green picked up his third win of the year against the Musketeers of Xavier on March 15, again pitching deep into the game. The slinger was relieved after seven innings, striking out four batters as Louisville won comfortably, 6-1.
The most important aspect to his game, Green says, is the ability to dig deep and last well into the later innings.
“I just want to give our team a chance to win,” he said. “Being able to throw six, seven innings every time I pitch. I don’t want to have to use the bullpen, I try to save them for the rest of the weekend.”
After Green was used primarily in relief duty and certain starting roles last spring, he went to work this offseason developing a stronger arsenal of pitches to help him face all kinds of batters. That, coupled with a determined mindset to keep the bullpen at bay, has paid dividends in his growth on the mound.
“I’ve been working on secondary pitches,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to go through the order three or four times. I’ve worked on my consistency, my off-speed pitches.”
Green has come a long way since his days as a Flaming Heart, where he was drafted in the 37th round of the 2010 MLB Rule 4 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He struggled with the decision of whether to turn pro back then, but he now has no regrets about his decision to play major-college ball.
“I can’t complain at all,” he said. “It’s the best decision I could have made. I don’t think I was ready for pro ball, for that lifestyle. It was a great decision to come here.”
Green credits the Cardinal coaching staff for helping him make the jump to the college level, not just in dealing with life on the mound, but also how to conduct himself when he hangs up his cleats at the end of the day.
“They obviously teach you the game of baseball, but they also give you life lessons,” he said. “It’s about a lot more than baseball. It’s just that mental side of the game.”
Coming off a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Rutgers last Friday, Green needed that mental toughness to overcome an outing where he allowed five runs in five and two-third innings.
“I think I started out solid,” he said, when asked about his thoughts on the year. “I had a rough week against Rutgers, but I think it’s been consistent for the most part.”
This consistency has helped Green earn the constant confidence of his coaching staff and teammates, with Green currently boasting a record of 4-2 after Thursday’s win over No. 15 Notre Dame. Having already pitched 41 and two third innings, Louisville (20-5) will likely rely heavily on his right arm as the 10th-ranked Cardinals prepare for the heart of their Big East schedule.
“I think we need to win every series, sweep every one we can,” Green said. “We want to win the conference outright, play consistent baseball from here on out.”
Sitting at 2-2 in conference play, the Big East conference slate is just getting underway, allowing Green plenty more chances to take the mound. It’s hard to imagine that Green didn’t even know where he would start the year just six weeks ago, but with two months remaining, Lousville is looking to ride its No. 1 pitcher as far as they can, and Green’s fine with that.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org