SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Los Angeles Dodgers president Stan Kasten probably said it best when he described right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke as having a ‘contrarian quality.’ Though it should be added that his use of the word endearing leading up to that remark may be a little off base.
Greinke, of course, made news Saturday when he told Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that ‘there is absolutely zero excitement’ for the team’s upcoming two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia March 22 and 23.
While the 13-hour trip and break in Cactus League play does have its affects on a sport littered with creatures of habit, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson made sure to quell any notion that his team shares Greinke’s viewpoint when speaking to reporters over the weekend.
“I think we’re excited to start the regular season and that is part of our regular season this year,” Gibson said. “It’s a couple of our home games. They’re important to win.
“Spring training is always long. It gives us another challenge, yeah. I’m not sure how the Dodgers have processed all that, but I think we’ve kind of viewed it in a positive view. We should. It is exciting. We are honored and humbled to go over there and represent Major League Baseball.”
Gibson’s take wasn’t all that surprising, given that he’s both a talking head for the organization and not inclined to agree on anything related to the rival Dodgers.
With that said, Greinke couldn’t even garner the support of a fellow pitcher, who more than likely will be toeing the rubber in one of the two season-opening contests at Sydney Cricket Ground.
“No, I’m looking forward to it,” D-backs left-hander Patrick Corbin said when asked if he agrees with Greinke. “I think it’s a good opportunity for us and Major League Baseball to go to Australia. Personally, I think it gives us a little break from spring training when guys are getting tired of it and want to play real ballgames. Obviously, the travel situation is not ideal, but it’s something we have to deal with. Hopefully, it’ll be a great event.
“Every pitcher has a routine, and it’s going to be changed. But, it’s going to be changed for everybody. It’s just going to be about who adjusts better.”
As for adjusting to the stop-and-start mentality caused by a combination of exhibition and regular season games played in a short period of time, Corbin added that at least in the D-backs’ camp, the pitchers are already preparing for any complications that could arise.
“Probably, the only difference [this spring] was throwing a bit earlier, about a week or so,” said Corbin. “Camp started here earlier, though. We just need to make sure all pitchers are ready, but [the coaching staff] is doing a good job of making sure we get our bullpens and live sessions in leading up to the game. All the guys here are going to be ready.”
That includes position players.
And one in particular, shortstop Cliff Pennington, knows a thing or two about what it’s like to open the season overseas.
As a member of the Oakland Athletics in 2012, Pennington and his teammates kicked off their campaign with a two-game set against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Japan.
“I loved it, and I think all of the guys enjoyed it. There were a few things that were tough, but I mean that’s a couple of tough things for a bunch of really, cool things. It’s awesome.
“We get to go play baseball in another country and play in front of people that don’t get to watch Major League Baseball all that often, especially live. You get to experience new culture. I mean the list goes on and on in terms of things that were cool.”
And the coolest thing of all?
According to Pennington, the jet lag and subsequent time different adjustment didn’t affect his team at all. In fact, Oakland won the American League West that season for the first time since 2006.