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Dodgers pitcher Greinke exits early vs. D-backs, Australia eligibility in question

GLENDALE, AZ — Less than a week after voicing his displeasure with his team’s participation in major league baseball’s season opener in Australia, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke again faced a media huddle at his Camelback Ranch locker on Thursday.

Just more than an hour earlier, he had exited his team’s Cactus League home opener after throwing just three pitches against a split squad of Arizona Diamondbacks players. He was removed, the Dodgers say, with a right calf strain.

Although he described the injury to be minor, speculation over the authenticity of the injury began instantaneously, both on Twitter and in the press box, where some of the assembled Los Angeles media made one-legged kangaroo jokes.

“You deal with small stuff all the time and I think that’s what this is, but we’ll see,” Greinke explained.

Oftentimes, he went on, injuries such as the one suffered in his right leg would be overcome during the regular season. But he saw reason to be cautious in his first start of spring.

“I wanted what was best,” he replied to a reporter who asked if he lobbied to remain in the game while surrounded by Dodgers trainers and manager Don Mattingly in the first inning.

“I know if something is bothering you, they’re not going to let you stay in in the first game of spring. And if you do and you hurt it, then they get fired probably.”

After the premature exit, Greinke was also given opportunity to clarify his Australia comments and specifically address how his injury played into that sentiment, if at all.

“It definitely doesn’t take me out of the mix (for Australia) — hopefully it doesn’t,” he said. “But we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

More questions arose. Was this his escape hatch from the trip he had no interest in?

“If we’re going to be there, which obviously we are, then yes — I’d like to pitch there,” Greinke went on.

“I guess my comments — I didn’t realize at the time — but they caused a stir. I mean, I’m looking forward to playing over there.”

Finally, in an effort to recap what he originally said last weekend and clarify his comments, Greinke pointed to his desire to perform at his best all the time and his dependence on set routines to do so. The late-March Australia trip, he said, throws a wrench in that, making it all-the-more difficult to perform at a high level.

“No one wants me to say it this way but, in my vote, if we had to go over there, my vote was not to,” the right-hander said. “But more people wanted to go than not, so now that we are going, I want to be there. I don’t want to not go and have the rest of the team go and have to play and me sit here, watching. And I also don’t want to go over there and watch. So I want to go over there and play, since that’s what we’re doing.”

Dodgers officials say players were not given an official vote on the itinerary.