Rule 5 pick Nick Green has ‘no margin for error’ as D-backs mull roster spot
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After playing rookie ball in Arizona in 2014, Nick Green is back in the desert for his first spring training.
He has a chance to go full-circle and make his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
A Rule 5 draft pick, Arizona selected him from the New York Yankees in December. While rotation and bullpen competition is fierce, this gives Green a minor advantage: If the D-backs do not keep him on the major league roster, he must be offered back to New York.
Green said he’s not to looking at the “business side.”
“I’m just trying to make sure I’m doing my part for this team,” he said. “My job is to win games. I love winning. I’m all about winning and this org just seems about winning, so, I love that.”
It’s a tough balance manager Torey Lovullo has to find: If a player isn’t ready for the big leagues but has enough potential to a piece in the future, is it worth the loss of production this season?
“You have roughly 45 days to look at somebody and see what they’re very good at and what they’re working on for the future,” Lovullo said.
Lovullo said he creates comfortable environments early to get to know Rule 5 players before placing them in high-leverage situations.
“You’re looking at somebody that will have to be at the big league level,” he said. “There’s really no margin for error. I think accepting that responsibility as a player and knowing that you’re having to execute right now tells me a lot.”
The Yankees were certainly high on Green. Drafted by the Rangers, he was part of the trade that sent nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran from the Yankees to Texas at the 2016 trade deadline.
For a then-21-year-old who grew up watching and playing video games that included Beltran, it was a bit of a confidence boost for the pitcher to be part of such a deal.
“Obviously things like that always cross your mind, but I was just trying to kind of do thing and work hard,” he said before adding, “But it was really awesome.”
Green has spent most of his minor league times as a starting pitcher but will likely compete for a bullpen role, according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert.
He started 14 of 24 games in 2014-15 with the Rangers organization and then started every game in 2016. That year, he went 6-3 with a 3.34 ERA over 12 appearances.
He took a step back in 2017 as his ERA jumped to 4.49 over 26 starts, but came back down to 3.32 last season over 132.2 innings, the most of his career.
“I think (2017) was just one of those years. Things happen. I learned from it,” he said. “(I) learned from the bad experiences and made myself a much better pitcher overall and then just kind of matured through the failures.”
Lovullo sees a couple pitches in him “that are just a little bit different.”
“If he were to continue to grow and show the command of those pitches that he has in the past, he can turn into somebody that will be very interesting for us,” Lovullo said.
Among these is his fastball, which Green says cuts a little bit and averages 93-94 miles per hour but can hit 95.
“I can get the out whenever I need to,” he said. “(I’m) aggressive. I love going at guys, love attacking hitters and making them uncomfortable. I’m an attacker.”
The clock is ticking for Arizona on Green. That 45-day estimation is down to 43.
Green will either spend the season in a Diamondbacks uniform or take the trip back to the east coast.