ESPN wrote:2004 Season The Padres drafted Khalil Greene in 2002 because of his offensive talent and makeup, but the team had some questions about his ability to handle shortstop. Those questions proved to be moot, as Greene might already be the best all-around shortstop the Padres have ever had. He made highlight reels with his glove almost weekly, and matched Rookie of the Year favorite Jason Bay stat for stat over the second half of the season. Baseball America did award Greene its rookie honor. His season had numerous standout moments, including two games in which he hit two homers, and culminated with a second-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year vote.
Hitting Greene faces pitchers with an open stance, stepping into the pitches to get good plate coverage on the outside. He stepped in too far once in September, resulting in a broken right index finger that ended his season two weeks prematurely. His approach is professional and fundamentally sound, going where the pitch is thrown and spraying line drives to all fields. All of his homers were down the line to left field.
Baserunning & Defense Despite the highlights, Greene's range is only average, but he positions himself well, has a quick first step, never lacks for effort and has a decent enough arm to make plays in the hole. In college, he was a basestealing threat, but he really doesn't have the foot speed for that to translate to the majors. He is, however, a very intelligent baserunner.
2005 Outlook Greene will be the Padres' shortstop at least until he's eligible for free agency. Padres fans and brass alike are excited by how quickly he has developed as a complete player, and are hoping they have an emerging star in the fold. He hit .293 with a near .900 OPS (on-base plus slugging) while cutting his strikeout rate in half after the break, so there's good reason for optimism.
Last edited by wrveres on Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
By Bill Center UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER wrote:September 5, 2003 Rookie shortstop Khalil Greene smoothly handles a grounder in his recent big league debut. On his first play as a Padre on Wednesday, Khalil Greene raced in and backhanded a tricky hopper hit by Arizona's Steve Finley.
Without straightening or stopping, the shortstop whipped a cross-body bullet that beat Finley to first base by a stride.
"Did you see that?" Padres reliever Rod Beck said later. "One play and he's on the highlight reel. Who is this guy?"
He's Khalil Greene, 23, shortstop, product of Key West, Fla., and Clemson University . . . and the first member of the 2002 draft class to make it to the majors.
But as Beck and other Padres were discussing Greene's auspicious late-inning cameo Wednesday – he also flied out on the eighth pitch of his first at-bat – Greene was nowhere to be found.
Rather than celebrate his major league debut, Greene retired to the training room to do what he does best – work.
"Khalil is a very interesting person," said Bill Gayton, the Padres' director of scouting and the man who made the final decision to take the 5-foot-11, 205-pound college senior with the 13th pick in the 2002 draft.
"He is very prepared. He has a tremendous desire to succeed . . . extremely motivated. He is very grounded."
"Khalil is very quiet," said general manager Kevin Towers. "But he's a baseball junkie with an insatiable work ethic. When we were scouting him, there was this rumor that he'd take 200 grounders before a college game. We sort of laughed.
"And he took 200 ground balls. He practices plays that he might have to make only once or twice in his career."
"I have a pretty regimented personality," Greene said, having returned to the clubhouse from his workout long after most of his new teammates had departed.
"Once a task is presented, I focus all my energy on the job and try not to get ahead of that. I like routines. I enjoy training. Training and weightlifting are things I look forward to in the offseason."
If you are looking for flashy one-liners, you won't get them from Greene. Any flash is in the way he plays, not the style.
Describing his first fielding gem as a Padre, Greene said matter-of-factly: "I've made that play before. I'd rather make plays off the side. Sometimes it's the balls hit right at me that give me trouble."
And that was it. No smirk, no smile, no grin, no sign of accomplishment.
"Khalil's not very excitable," said Gayton, "and that is intriguing to us. There's not a lot of highs and lows. He takes care of himself. He's hard to get to know, but once you get to know him everyone loves him.
Not a word heard often in baseball.
"I'm pretty low-key," Greene acknowledged. "And I'm not very excitable. I'm just the way I am. I do not get too fired up by most things."
Much of that has to do with Greene's background.
He was raised in the Baha'i faith in the most remote southeast corner of the United States.
Among the tenets of Bahaism, which originated in Iran in the mid-19th century, are universal brotherhood, social equality and balance. And while many in the outside world view Key West as a mecca of counterculture, Greene sees it as a "small-town atmosphere . . . an island pace of life."
"My faith and background are a big part of it," Greene said in discussing his approach to life.
"I have a perspective on it. You look at the overall of why you are here. You try to find a happy medium . . . not overly excitable or too upset.
"Baseball is an aspect of my life. It doesn't dominate the thought process of my life. It's not my entire being."
That said, when Greene is playing baseball, he throws himself into the game.
"My standards for my personal performance are higher than what the Padres organization has set for me," he said. "You have to expect to do well and work toward that. You have to be confident."
Besides, you can't play baseball in Key West unless you are driven . . . like four hours across the Florida Keys to play your nearest opponent in Miami. "We were state champions in the third-biggest division three of the four years I played at Key West," he says.
But not many scouts visit Key West. To gain a scholarship at Clemson, Greene again traveled to the mainland to attend "showcase" camps and tournaments.
He played four full seasons at Clemson and is the Tigers' career leader in almost every offensive category except homers. In 2002 he won the Golden Spikes Award as the collegiate game's top player.
Still, many clubs thought the Padres overdrafted Greene with the 13th pick. A year earlier, the Cubs had taken him in the 14th round.
The Padres loved his bat more than his glove and as early as draft day talked about how he might have to move to second or third base to make it to the majors.
"We selected him to be an offensive shortstop," said Gayton.
"I'm not the flashiest defender," said Greene. "And when the scouts are looking at your bat first . . . but I've always thought I was a pretty good glove."
It didn't take Greene long to sell the Padres on that point, triggering a rapid rise through the system.
Greene debuted in June 2002 with the Padres' rookie-level team in Eugene, Ore. After only 10 games, he was skipped to high-Class A Lake Elsinore, where he hit .317 with nine homers and 32 RBI in 46 games.
Greene opened the 2003 season with Class AA Mobile (.275 with three homers and 25 RBI in 59 games) and was promoted to Class AAA Portland in June when Beavers shortstop Donaldo Mendez was recalled to San Diego to temporarily replace the injured Ramon Vazquez.
Greene was to have returned to Mobile when Mendez returned to Portland, but Greene wowed the organization with both his bat (.288, 10 homers, 47 RBI in 76 games) and glove. When Vazquez healed and Mendez was bumped back to the Beavers, Greene stayed at short and Mendez became a utility man.
Now Greene is in San Diego.
"He's going to be a multidimensional shortstop," said Towers. "Offensively, he attacks the ball and is very aggressive. Defensively, he has great instincts and body control. And he's rich in confidence
Last edited by wrveres on Sat Mar 05, 2005 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
PHOENIX – Rookie Khalil Greene refused to get complacent after winning the shortstop job from Rey Ordoñez, a former Gold Glover, earlier this month.
"He's not that kind of guy," manager Bruce Bochy said after Greene hammered two doubles and a single in yesterday's 13-2 loss to the Brewers.
Said Greene: "I've had to prove myself pretty much wherever I've gone. I was just thinking about that the other day. Coming out of high school, I wasn't supposed to be an infielder. They kind of wanted me to catch. Then going to Clemson, they had me at third, and they weren't sure I was going to be a starting player, and then I moved back to short.
"Coming into pro ball, there were questions. I've always had to earn things. I don't think I've ever been thrown anything with it completely given to me. I think that's what motivates me more than anything."
Tom Krasovic wrote:February 20, 2005 When Khalil Greene freed up his hands last summer it translated into a faster bat and enough doubles and home runs to suit a cleanup hitter. Then, just when he was in a groove, he broke a finger, ending his season. He's in camp early to try to recapture the feeling he had in September.
PEORIA – When Khalil Greene freed up his hands last summer it translated into a faster bat and enough doubles and home runs to suit a cleanup hitter.
Greene became the most dangerous shortstop in the National League, pounding out slugging percentages of .524 in August and .630 in September.
"Last year I felt more comfortable than I had since I was in college," Greene said yesterday from the Padres' training complex, where he arrived a week before position players are due to report. "I felt that's where my swing needed to be."
Greene, who often tinkers with his stance, said the power surge came after he adjusted his approach.
"My body was getting in the way of my hands," he said. "So I tried to eliminate that. I always felt my hands were one of my strong points. I attempted to utilize that more."
In his final 214 at-bats, Greene hit 11 home runs and 14 doubles, a barrage that included four home runs in three games from Sept. 9-11. On Sept. 13, Greene broke the tip of his right index finger while trying to field a bad-hop grounder by the Dodgers' Antonio Perez and did not bat again in 2004. Greene stayed on task, using his mental powers to retain the muscle memory of his hot streak.
"I was trying to keep in mind what I was doing and carry that over long term," he said.
More will be known when Greene faces pitchers, but a spillover from his strong finish wouldn't be shocking.
"Of course, if I had known I was going to break my finger, I might've tried to backhand that ball, but I did feel happy that I was comfortable at the plate and that I had something to build off of next year," he said. "It can be more difficult if you end on a sour note. I was swinging the bat well. I went into the offseason knowing that's where I wanted to be and to just try and compete."
Greene's stamina also contributed to the flourish. Manager Bruce Bochy said Greene never appeared tired across 133 starts at shortstop, which was about 20 more than planned.
"It's a credit to his work ethic, his conditioning," Bochy said. "He takes such great care of himself."
Greene, who appears a tad more muscular than last February, said it was a nice opening season but nothing to get wild about.
"I feel like I've gotten better, have ironed some things out and have a more consistent swing," he said. "But I don't see myself as being near established at this point. I have a year's experience, but I have a long ways to go before I establish myself."
PEORIA, Ariz. ---- Between gentle hazing from grizzled veterans and growing pains associated with stepping into the elite realm of competition, professional athletes rarely have the time of their lives in season No. 1.
But never, perhaps, has someone been as eager to drop the "R" word ---- rookie ---- from his vocabulary as Padres shortstop Khalil Greene.
Throughout his first full season in the major leagues, Greene was singled out for his defensive wizardry and his abnormal calm and, by year's end, his hot bat. And all along, he simply wanted to blend into the background and just be one of the guys.
"I felt there was a certain stigma attached to being a rookie," Greene said. "You're separated from everybody else, and it was my intent originally to try to feel like everybody else and fit in on the field, off the field. The constant questions about being a first-year player always seemed to arise, and it separates you that much more, like you haven't arrived.
"So I feel now that I'm just like everybody else and there's no questions about whether I'm the best first-year player. I'm just a good player."
That's as good an explanation as any for why Greene went out of his way to distance himself from the buzz surrounding his National League Rookie of the Year candidacy in 2004. After being billed as the early favorite, he ultimately finished second to Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay, a former Padres farmhand who roomed with Greene when both played for Triple-A Portland. When the award was announced last November, Greene said he was glad Bay had won.
The past few months have done nothing to change his mind.
"I wasn't too concerned about it then, and I'm less concerned about it now," he said. "It's my second year, so there are no sophomore-year trophies out there to win."
Bay captured the vote of a national panel of baseball writers by ripping 26 homers and driving in 82 runs in only 411 at-bats. Greene's coaches and teammates, however, believe they know who was more valuable. The 25-year-old, a 2002 first-round pick from Clemson, couldn't match Bay's offensive numbers ---- Greene hit .273 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs ---- but his glovework was the stuff of highlight reels almost nightly and his remarkably even-keeled demeanor was a positive clubhouse influence.
"I think he took everybody by surprise," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We knew Khalil was talented, but I don't think anybody knew he was going to have that kind of year."
Added Tye Waller, the club's director of player development: "You can't say enough about the job that guy did. You don't get that too often."
Similarly, not often is it that a first-year player heats up as the weather turns cool. Far from smacking into the so-called rookie wall, Greene was at his best when the Padres were locked in a late-season pennant race. In August, he batted .311 with five homers and 16 RBIs to earn NL Rookie of the Month honors for the second time. (He also won in April.)
From Sept. 9-11, he launched four long balls during a three-game series against Colorado at Coors Field.
"I just think it was his work ethic, his conditioning," Bochy said. "He just takes such good care of himself. It's a tribute to how consistent his is with his routine. He never appeared fatigued."
All the conditioning in the world, though, couldn't prevent the fluke play that ended Greene's season. On Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, he broke his right index finger while trying to field a hard grounder off the bat of the Dodgers' Antonio Perez. The injury limited him to pinch-running duty for the final three weeks.
"It was somewhat disappointing in the way it happened, the fact that we were still in the playoff race and I felt like I was starting to play better than I had up until that point offensively," Greene said. "But I was never bitter about it or anything. That's part of the game."
Greene is now preparing for a season in which he will hit two spots higher in the lineup, jumping from eighth to sixth, and in which his starter's role is unchallenged. Last spring, the Padres brought veteran shortstop Rey Ordonez with them to Arizona to compete with Greene and provide a fallback in case he wasn't ready to handle everyday duty. A few weeks into camp, Ordonez walked out, reportedly because he saw the writing on the wall.
"Regardless of whether I'm battling for a starting spot, there are a lot of things I want to do and get better at," Greene said. "Honestly, I'm not looking at this year any different than I did last year or the year before."
When Khalil Greene played baseball five years ago, he was no one's idea of a spectacular shortstop.
A Clemson University sophomore, Greene was a slugging third baseman who enjoyed, and was suited to, his corner office.
Shortstop? He'd played it well in high school, but now it was the province of athletes faster than the bulky Greene.
"I wouldn't refute that claim," Greene said from his Padres clubhouse cubicle recently. "Scouts labeled me as a third baseman or second baseman. That was justified. At that time, that's what I was. I figured that would be my thing."
Plans changed, happily for the Padres.
Reinventing himself, Greene returned to shortstop at age 20, improved his defensive speed by more than a step-and-a-half, drew on instincts that allowed him to play even faster and, just three years after being drafted, outperformed many opposing shortstops as a Padres rookie last year.
Nothing to it, right?
"There's a lot to be said for athletic ability, but from where I was as a high school shortstop to where I am now – I've gone on to be a totally different player," Greene said. "I was an offense-first guy. Now, there's a lot more parity."
Padres second baseman Mark Loretta said "it's very surprising" when a player can move to shortstop and flourish. Usually, infielders are moved off shortstop.
"It's probably the toughest position in baseball," said Loretta, a former shortstop. "Mentally and physically, it's just very demanding."
Just two months into the 2004 season, Bruce Bochy proclaimed Greene the best shortstop, by far, in his 10 seasons as Padres manager. Greene may have looked like a veteran, but for the first time, he was at home on the dirt between second base and third.
"In the minors, the first couple of years, I didn't really feel 100 percent comfortable at shortstop," he said. "I knew I was making the plays. But for me, defensively, last year was really the year where, in my own mind, I stepped up a little bit more."
When a slugger can also handle shortstop duties, baseball people talk of potential greatness.
Greene, despite playing home games in one of the majors' best pitcher's parks, set franchise records for a shortstop with 15 home runs, 65 RBI and 50 extra-base hits. He devastated opponents with his glove and arm, yet was just learning the tendencies of his own pitchers and other hitters.
"We haven't seen the tip of the iceberg yet," General Manager Kevin Towers said. "He's going to get better defensively, and offensively. With experience, knowing the pitchers and the hitters in the league, and feeling more established, he'll be that much better."
But detours happen, too. Sophomore years can be more challenging than rookie seasons. Shortstops, major league studies show, are more likely than other position players to go on the disabled list. And at 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, the husky Greene could outgrow the position if he thickens up the way some players do in their late 20s.
"Khalil has got a chance to be exceptional," said Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman, a former Yankees second baseman who has spent six decades in professional baseball. "But the thing is, after one year, you can't tab anybody. It takes five years before you can really see if he's going to be great or just good. Right now, Greene is incredibly good."
Greene's stealth advantages included an artist's appreciation for the job's broad canvas.
"I have more fun playing defense," said the 25-year-old South Carolina resident, who grew up in Key West, Fla., after his parents set up a jewelry shop there. "There's room to be a little more improvisational, a little more creative. You never know when a ball is going to take a bad hop. The dynamics of defense are really ever-changing."
Greene's diving grabs and rapid throws earned him the only curtain call Padres first-base coach Davey Lopes had seen in his 37 years in professional baseball.
Pitcher David Wells, a teammate last year, said Greene's defensive work, which spanned 133 starts and 83 percent of the team's innings, compared with that of past teammates such as All-Stars Barry Larkin, Tony Fernandez and Derek Jeter.
Even umpires marveled. One told a Padres coach that Greene's hands and feet were the quickest he'd seen from a shortstop since Omar Vizquel was stockpiling Gold Gloves.
But if Greene had joined a fraternity of baseball's ballet stars, just years earlier he was more bull than Baryshnikov.
"I was a step and a half slower," he said. "I was probably stronger."
Clemson wanted him to play third base as a freshman so that a veteran could stay at short. Eager to meet the job's greater power demands, Greene bulked up his muscle mass. He hoisted barbells five days a week, performing power lifts as a Clemson linebacker would.
"My whole rationale was getting bigger so I could have more power," he recalled. "Knowing what I know now, I would've focused more on my swing, less on the strength aspect. Strength helps. It's a big part of it. But there are a lot of big guys that have less pop because their swing is not as good."
Greene prospered at third base and enjoyed his time there. But when he got the chance to play shortstop in the Cape Cod League entering his junior year, he was quick to recover skills he'd used in high school.
Soon, a leaner Greene was replacing another slugger, Jeff Baker, as Clemson's shortstop.
The skeptics continued to doubt his shortstop upside, but Greene was putting together pieces in ways not always evident to outsiders.
"It just seems like he's got a lot of things figured out," said Michael Johnson, a former Clemson teammate and Padres' Single-A first baseman who regularly seeks Greene's counsel.
Padres scouting director Bill Gayton became a true believer, in part because conversations with Greene revealed "a special makeup." Gayton drafted Greene 13th overall in 2002, after Greene earned national Player of the Year honors as a senior. Gayton forecast a long career at shortstop, citing, among other virtues, the player's smooth tempo afield.
"It's like a golf swing," Gayton said last year. "Khalil makes it look so easy, because he's under control. He slows it down."
As Greene made play after play last summer, Lopes wondered if this was the same Khalil Thabit Greene he'd heard about through industry sources.
"You heard reports that he didn't have the range," Lopes said. "Then you'd watch him and say, 'What were they watching?' He gets better and better and better."
A closer look at Greene's methods, many of which are unorthodox:
Throwing Greene asks less of his arm than many shortstops, getting to balls quickly and getting rid of them on the move. Thus, he fooled some scouts who doubted his arm's strength. He prefers to throw on the run more than most shortstops and makes it work with balanced, accurate throws. As a boy playing sandlot football, he said, he cultivated the skill unwittingly.
"I never just dropped back and threw it," he said. "I threw on the run. It's not something I would've thought about then, but now that I look back on it, as I grew up, I was always good at it. Throwing across my body, back the other way, is something I've done a long time. And I've practiced it. It's unorthodox, but sometimes it can be just as routine as the other throws."
Loretta said Greene gets good carry by imparting backspin with rare economy. Johnson said he can not recall one time when Greene overthrew him at Clemson.
"It's like (first baseman) Mark Grace said: If you're going to miss, miss low where I have a chance to get it," Bochy said.
Chasing Padres left fielder Ryan Klesko, accustomed to first base, tended to play deep and get late breaks on bloopers. But in part because Greene covered Klesko's front side, the Padres allowed 18 percent fewer balls to land in front of the left fielder than the major league average.
Showing better functional speed than some shortstops who are faster, Greene sustained sprints while looking upward and careening toward Klesko and foul ground.
Greene said that playing 10 years of organized soccer – as a center striker – accustomed him to scanning the horizon while on the run.
Anticipating Loretta said Greene sets up deeper than some shortstops – often on the outfield grass – and exploits that deeper angle by "flowing" in the right direction before the ball is hit.
"He's like Andruw Jones," Loretta said, referring to Atlanta's Gold Glove center fielder. "He catches balls that you think are going to be hits. It's like he knows something that you don't."
Greene said imagining what he would do as a hitter helps him to get better jumps. Infield coach Rob Picciolo said Greene sharpens his first step by standing at shortstop during batting practice and getting jumps on every swing.
Greene's ball-hawking skills, along with those of sidekick Sean Burroughs, fed this impressive stat: Between shortstop and third base, the Padres allowed 24 percent fewer hits than the major league average last year. Only the Red Sox and Dodgers did better.
Competing Greene's relaxed demeanor and surfer-dude blond hair belie a killer instinct. Loretta said Greene doesn't just want to make plays, he wants to erase specific hitters. "Me, I'm just trying to make a play," Loretta said with a laugh.
Concentrating Picciolo said he's never seen Greene lose his composure, even when angry.
"Certain people might be able to go out and play a little more loose and let it fly and react to everything out there without really being 100 percent into it," Greene said. "If I appear laid back, it's not really indicative of what I'm thinking. I'm just focused on what I'm doing.
"You have somewhere from 2 1/2 to three hours where you devote total concentration on what you're doing."
Stealing hits Greene practices his dives on mats inside the Padres clubhouse. "I've never seen a guy do that," Lopes said.
Lopes said that Greene's ability to rise and throw in a blur calls to mind greats such as Ozzie Smith, Vizquel and Rey Ordo×ez.
"There's really not a play, athletically, that he can't make," Towers said. "It's been a long time since we've had an infielder who leaves his feet like Khalil does."