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Zack Greinke is nervous: Why that’s good news for Arizona Diamondbacks

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Every spring, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gets nervous. And it’s always the same feeling: That he isn’t going to be ready to pitch — up to his standards — by the start of the regular season.

With exactly three weeks to go before Opening Day, that feeling is back.

“I think it’s going to be ready,” he said Thursday, “but in the back of my mind I’m always a little nervous that it’s not actually going to be there and be ready by the time the season starts.”

Greinke isn’t sure why he continually doubts himself.

In all 14 of his previous big league seasons, including each of the past two with the D-backs, not once has Greinke ever felt unprepared going into his first start.

“I’ve felt good by Opening Day every year,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I did good Opening Day or early in the year, but every year I’ve felt ready, like, throughout my entire career.”

Then an argument could be made that the nervousness Greinke feels is a good thing. That it serves as motivation to put the work in.

“Probably,” he said. “If you don’t you might not spend the time needed to get ready. That’s usually what happens, too. I’m so bad early on that I have to really, really pick up the pace. This year, like I said, I tried to pick up the pace earlier — I said it on one our first meetings — that I tried to be ready faster this time. It hasn’t been the case. Hopefully, it will. I’m putting in an effort to get ready.”

On Thursday, while his teammates were in Maryvale playing the Milwaukee Brewers, Greinke pitched in an intrasquad game on the backfields at Salt River Fields. Over 4.2 innings, he allowed one run on six hits, including four doubles, with no walks and three strikeouts.

In both the third and fourth innings, Greinke faced two additional batters following the third out in an effort to increase his pitch-count. The goal, he said, was to reach 60 pitches in what was his third spring appearance. Unofficially, Greinke finished with 57, 39 for strikes.

“The first three innings weren’t that great, but they were still a little better than the last couple,” he said. “The last inning felt really good. Hopefully, it continues working from there. I felt good. The farther we went in the game, the better it felt.”

With Greinke on the mound, there was a decent crowd on hand. Manager Torey Lovullo watched the first two innings before heading to the game in Maryvale.

A few scouts were also in attendance. Some reported to have Greinke’s fastball clocked in the mid-80s, which is down from where he was last season, yet par for the course here in spring, according to Greinke.

“More important than the number is how they’re reacting,” he said. “Today, it’s a back game against mainly minor league guys, but I felt alright with the takes and the swings and some of the stuff. It wasn’t as many swings-and-misses because I wasn’t throwing good enough pitches. You get swing-and-misses, and I think they’ll get better as camp goes on.

“Like I said, that last inning today was great. If I can build off that then there would be a lot less things that need to get improved.”

And relieve any remaining nervousness.

BASE HITS

— Twice now in his last two appearances, Greinke has pitched on the backfields at Salt River Fields rather than in a Cactus League game.

The reasons are many, according to Greinke.

“Sometimes it’s facing the other team that you don’t want to face, like a team you’re going to face early in the year. Sometime you don’t want to travel a long road trip to face a team on the road. Sometimes you just want to work on stuff. Sometimes it’s to control the pitches per inning,” he said.

— Catching Greinke on Thursday was Alex Avila.

“That was really good,” Greinke said. “It was like he really knows how I pitch. It was really easy.”

Greinke worked mostly with Jeff Mathis last season. That pairing will likely continue again this season, though Lovullo likes his pitchers to be familiar with all the catchers.

At the plate, Avila went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

— Among the minor leaguers to face Greinke was first baseman Pavin Smith, whom the D-backs selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Smith ripped a double to right field in the third inning.

“Yeah, I wanted to strike him out but I didn’t,” Greinke said, smiling.

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