Green advancing, finding confidence

Green advances, finds confidence

TEMPE, Ariz. -- For Nick Green, baseball is not an untimed game.

Green, 23, is such a firm believer in keeping his fielders focused by working fast that several times last season, he correctly predicted that a game he started at 7:10 p.m. would be completed by 9:30.

In keeping with that focus on efficiency, Green has a personal aversion to the base on balls.

"Oh, I absolutely hate walking guys," Green said. "That's the one thing that eats me up the most -- that free pass. ... If they score, it's like you just gave it to them."

Throwing strikes and working fast are traits dear to any pitching coach's heart, and Green's approach has served him well so far. As a 35th-round selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Green worked hard to get noticed and get promoted in the Angels' competitive Minor League system. Now, he's ranked as the Angels' No. 8 prospect by Baseball America.

Last season, in his first full campaign at Double-A Arkansas, Green posted a career-best 10-8 record and 3.68 ERA, leading the league in starts and innings (178 1/3). He walked 32 while striking out 107.

"Nick has a great combination of fastball-changeup with a breaking ball that has the potential to be a power breaking ball," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has good movement on his fastball -- good velocity. As he's gotten more experienced, he's moved way up on our depth chart."

Green will likely spend most or all of this season in the Minor Leagues, but he knows he's on the right track.

"As you go through the levels [of the organization], you get more confident," he said. "It's definitely exciting. Each time you go up, it tells you how close you are."

Green has become brazen in his command of his changeup, as he's willing to throw it in any count, in any situation. He's always known how to throw it, but it wasn't until he got to pro ball that he actually got a chance to use it in a game.

"In college and in high school, I knew the grip, but I never threw it because at that level the coaches call all the games," Green said.

Once he started using it in the Minor Leagues, Green realized the pitch had excellent movement and that he could locate it well. He now considers it his best pitch. He also possesses a big bender and throws his fastball in the high-80- to low-90-mph range.

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Green has walked only 106 men in 507 2/3 career innings, while striking out 359 and limiting opponents to a .259 average. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement.

"There's still some things that need to be cleaned up in his delivery to give him a consistent delivery," Scioscia said, explaining that Green's lanky build and windup lead to some inconsistency.

Green's size, at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, served him well in high school. While primarily a baseball player -- he was drafted in the 11th round by Houston after his senior year, but he did not sign -- Green grew up in football-crazed Tift County, Georgia.

Tift County High's passion for the pigskin has gained some national notoriety, in part because of a music video produced in honor of the 12-2, 2006 team that became a viral hit on the Internet.

Green said he grew up going to football games, and always wanted to play for his high school team.

"I looked up my senior year and said, 'You know what, I'm going to do it,'" Green said. "When I finished my senior year, I regretted not playing all four years."

Green played some receiver and tight end, and also punted and kicked. He said his longest field goal in a game was 40 yards, although he could hit from 50 yards in practice.

"There's nothing like running out there on a Friday night," Green said.

Although his football-playing days have long since past, he's feeling better than ever about his future in baseball.

"Last year was the best year I've had so far," Green said. "As you go through the levels, you get more confident."

Mark Thoma is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.