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D-backs’ Zack Greinke focusing on secondary pitches earlier than normal

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke adjusts his cap after loading the bases with Cleveland Indians in the second inning of a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s early in the season for Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke to be throwing this many off-speed pitches.

He only pitched two innings in the 4-3 loss Thursday to the Cleveland Indians, but his reliance on secondary pitches helped him get escape without any damage. Eight of his final 11 pitches were off-speed.

“Usually I’m working on something the first couple of outings more so than this year and then don’t even really focus on the off-speed,” Greinke said. “This year, I focused on it a little earlier than normal, maybe.”

This time last year, after missing time early due to injury, Greinke was still trying to find his velocity.

On March 8, 2018, his fastball ranged between 84-86.

On Thursday, it was around 88-90, a more typical Greinke number.

“For the first couple outings last year I know he was working on fastball command and letting that velocity creep up,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “If he’s telling you that he’s working on the secondary pitches I feel like that’s a good sign because he doesn’t need to work on the fastball location.”

Despite that, Greinke couldn’t spot the fastball well Thursday. His secondary pitches got him out of multiple jams.

In the first inning, there were two runners on with two outs and a 2-1 count. Greinke threw a slider for strike two. He returned to the fastball twice – one was fouled off, one was a ball – before going back to the slider. He got the K.

Early in the second inning, Greinke started an at-bat three straight fastballs for three balls. He then threw a slider and a pair of changeups to get the count full.

But then he went back to the fastball and walked the hitter.

With the bases loaded in that second inning, there was a mound visit. He then went almost entirely off-speed to center fielder Leonys Martin and second baseman Jason Kipnis afterward, striking them both out with a mix of changeups and sliders, and one first-pitch curveball to Kipnis that Greinke dropped in the zone.

“(I) just want to get all my pitches working and then go from there,” Greinke said. “So far, I mean, nothing’s perfect, but they all are usable.”

That pitch count of 48 limited him to just two innings and then he threw more in the bullpen afterward.

“It was all just fine, it just wasn’t amazing,” Greinke said. “If the season started next start I wouldn’t be real excited about that but for this part of spring, it was probably about normal. I’m not upset with where it’s at at the moment.”

D-backs vs. Indians notes

— Matt Andriese got the loss, but he pitched very well, retiring his first eight hitters and 10 of his first 12. But in his fourth inning, he could only get one out and gave up a pair of runs.

“Andriese, for me, was kind of a highlight,” Lovullo said.

— Infielder Wilmer Flores hit his first home run in a D-backs uniform to give Arizona a 2-0 lead in the first inning. While it was his first homer, he’s been one of the best hitters on the team this spring. He came into the game batting .429, third-best of any D-back with at least 10 at-bats.

— Catcher Caleb Joseph smacked a home run to left, also his first as a Diamondback.

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