BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – If Zack Greinke thinks last season wasn’t that good, then it’s hard to imagine what he thinks a good season or a great season is.
Greinke had the best season of his Major League career in 2015, going 19-3 with a league-low 1.66 ERA.
It would be hard for Greinke to top that kind of output for the Diamondbacks in any of the six years he signed up for, but it won’t stop him from giving it his all on the bump every fifth day.
“Last year, what I did for the most part, and what I hope to do this year, is just think about one pitch at a time, (and) make it as good as I can,” Greinke said. “If I make a bad pitch, think about the next pitch and make that pitch as good as I can, and just do it like that for a full season, and hopefully the results take care of themselves. That’s kind of how you ideally do it. I guess when things go bad, it’s a little tougher to do it then when things are working good for you.”
When describing the incredible season he had last year for the Dodgers, Greinke said he tried to keep it “as simple as possible” when he pitched, and he tried to make “as few mistakes as possible.” Those things, combined with some timely breaks in games, and the best fielding in the game from his defense (MLB-best .988 fielding percentage for the season) helped him soar.
“We (Dodgers) won a lot of games when I pitched, and not a lot unearned runs (given up) either, so I think it was quality baseball all the way around, which is the goal every game,” Greinke said. “That’s what it seems like is their goal here (with Diamondbacks) a lot, is to not make mistakes, and play fundamentally sound, and that’s kind of how I try to do it when I play, and try to enjoy it too.”
The Diamondbacks kicked things off last week with the pitchers and catchers first reporting, then their workouts after that. Greinke says it’s been a good adjustment phase for him with his new teammates and new surroundings.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it seems like every team, they like to do a crazy amount in the first week, then you go back to normal,” Greinke said. “I don’t know if here, it continues, or if it’s like most places where it gets easier, but so far, it’s been a lot of work.”
It was a complete stunner when the news came out that Greinke had signed a six-year, $206 million contract with Arizona. Social media exploded and everyone was shocked that the Diamondbacks were able to steal Greinke away from one of their most hated rivals, the Dodgers, but they did, and it’s been a fun ride so far for Greinke and his new team.
When you’re Greinke, and you’re making $34 million a season (which breaks down to a little over $1 million a start), you have to know that all eyes and all cameras will be on you with every single move you make; it’s just the nature of the beast when you’re paid that much and you’re the ace of Arizona’s pitching staff.
As hard as it all must be to deal with, Greinke says he’s taking it in stride.
“I guess I’ve gotten pretty good (with) dealing with what I have to deal with, and just not getting worked up over stuff if I don’t like it,” Greinke said. “I’m not anticipating anything being an issue.”
In asking pitchers inside Arizona’s clubhouse about their approach to learning from a great like Greinke, every single one of them said they’d be picking his brain to learn as much as they can from someone like Greinke, who treats the smallest things in his preparation like they were the biggest and most important parts of his job.
Greinke says he’s not too sure how good a leader he’ll be just yet, as he’s still getting to know his teammates, but he’s willing to do whatever’s necessary to help his guys get better.
“Usually, with the starters, you always work pretty good with (them), because you’re around them so much, so you always learn stuff from the other starters,” Greinke said. “The relievers, I guess it’s probably a little tougher, because they usually pitch different than I do, and I’m not around them as much, and they’re usually a little different attitude wise. Whatever happens, happens for the most part. If you ever try to force anything on anyone, it doesn’t work out.”
Greinke’s been the very definition of the word “Iron Man” throughout his career. He’s started 30 or more games seven times, and he’s pitched 200 or more innings six times.
It’s impossible to look into the future and see how many starts and innings Greinke will pitch this season. It’s a long season, and things can and will happen that will change the course of the road Greinke and the Diamondbacks will travel on.
Greinke circles back to the “keeping it simple” thought process when it comes to starts and innings pitched this coming season.
“Think one pitch at a time, and make adjustments whenever I have to, and do whatever (I) have to to stay healthy, and keep the right track throughout the whole season and not get off track is more of the plan,” Greinke said. “then make adjustments as good as you can, whether it’s body injuries, or mechanical problems, or other things.”