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A ‘better’ Zack Greinke on display for Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke throws during the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against Mexico, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – “Decent” is how Zack Greinke described his first outing.

“Better” was the word he used after his second.

Through two Cactus League appearances, Greinke, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter, remains a work in progress.

In other words, right where he should be this early in spring training.

Facing Team Mexico at Salt River Fields on Wednesday, Greinke pitched 2.2 innings. He allowed two runs on six hits with no walks and one strikeout. He also uncorked a wild pitch.

“Better than the first time,” said Greinke, who worked with Chris Herrmann behind the plate for the first time. “I just started executing pitches a little better, especially in the second and third inning. I felt like it was getter better each inning, so that was good.”

Greinke was removed from the game with two outs and a runner on second base in the third inning after 49 pitches, 36 for strikes.

Right-hander Braden Shipley recorded the third out to end the scoring threat.

Team Mexico jumped on Greinke early with two runs in the first inning. Three of the first four batters reached base safely with a pair of singles and a double. Greinke erased the fourth hit in the frame picking off center fielder Chris Roberson at first base.

In the second inning, Greinke stranded a leadoff double, getting right fielder Alex Verdugo to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The sixth hit off Greinke was a one-out double in the third.

Many of the balls put in play were hard hit.

“I made plenty of bad pitches, they’re going to get hit hard,” he said.

Greinke, entering the second year of a six-year, $206.5 million contract, topped out at 89 mph with his fastball after reaching as high as 91 mph in his first outing.

The difference was noticed.

“I’d rather be more, but that’s just what it is at the moment,” he said, referring to his velocity. “It’s a little bit slower than normal, but I started throwing a little later than normal, too. Hopefully, it gains a little bit but it’s not, like, too crazy at the moment.”

Still, there are more than three weeks before Greinke takes the mound for real, against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, April 2nd.

“This start was way better than the first one, that’s a good sign always. Hopefully, it just continues to get better as camp goes,” he said. “There’s more than enough time for me to be ready, so I don’t expect anything but to be ready. (I’m in) a pretty decent spot, especially, like I said, a lot of the stuff felt really comfortable in the second and third inning today.”

BASE HITS

— This marked the second straight outing in which Shipley entered a game mid-inning. It’s perhaps a sign of things to come for the 25-year-old right-hander, who may find himself making the Opening Day roster as a reliever.

“We’re still looking at him as a potential starter,” Lovullo said. “He’s going to be getting innings and getting a little bit stretched out. We want to see all angles and all areas with all of our guys. He is right in the competition. He’s one of the main guys that is going to get a look as a starter and where that takes us we’re not sure … but nothing’s changed as far as him being stretched out to get some innings as a starter.”

Shipley recorded his second straight scoreless appearance, working 2.1 innings giving two hits with one walk and one strikeout.

— Inserted into the lineup after Ketel Marte was scratched due to illness, third baseman Domingo Leyba singled in the go-ahead run in a three-run second inning.

The D-backs won the game, 10-4, before an announced crowd of 6,391.

Outfielder Socrates Brito suffered a dislocated finger sliding headfirst into home plate.

— Soon, Chris Owings will be getting game reps in the outfield. And when that happens, it will be right field, according to Lovullo, rather than center field, where Owings played 49 games, including 47 starts, last season.

“We know that he had some reps in center field but we want to just simplify it for him in one spot, and it just seemed like right field was the place that we chose,” Lovullo said. “We know he’s capable of moving around, but I think we have really good coverage in center field and left field. I think right field there’s a little less coverage in certain areas and C.O. might fit that role perfectly from time to time.”

Owings started at shortstop on Wednesday and went hitless in two at-bats.

— Prior to the D-backs traveling across the Valley to Glendale to face the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, they’ll play a “B” game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields. First pitch is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Field 1.

“We’re backed up with pitching … we’re getting a little logjammed,” Lovullo said, adding left-hander Anthony Banda plus right-handers Zack Godley and Matt Koch will throw in what is expected to be a seven-to-nine inning game.

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