SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. –- For starter Zack Greinke, his first spring-training bullpen session with the Arizona Diamondbacks felt like any other.
Of course it wasn’t, judging from the number of D-backs personnel on hand and cameras, both still and video, pointed in his direction.
That’s what happens when you sign the richest contract in franchise history.
“It felt like everything was OK. The ball was coming out pretty good; threw a couple of off-speed (pitches) and they came out of the fingers pretty well,” said Greinke, who threw to catcher Welington Castillo. “Just try to build on that each one, but I would say overall I was pretty happy with how it worked out; and it wasn’t perfect but I didn’t expect it to be perfect.”
No — at least not right now.
Greinke and the D-backs have six weeks to perfect their craft, so there’s no need to rush.
“Before I used to work on a lot of pitches in spring training, try to develop some pitches,” Greinke said. “But I kind of like my mix now, so it’s just try to get pitches normal, working how I want them and be healthy and strong.”
Just two days into spring training at Salt River Fields, manager Chip Hale has already noticed how carefully Greinke approaches, not just each pitch, but each drill.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Hale said of his Opening Day starter. “Everything he does, whether it’s in bunting practice, fielding ground balls, if you watch him throw his sides, it’s just precision. He does not accept mediocrity, and that’s something we talk about with our players all the time and pitchers is it’s easy to just to go out there and throw 30-40 pitches but every pitch there’s a purpose and that’s what we want from everybody.”
Greinke hopes his approach towards the game rubs off on his fellow pitchers, especially the younger hurlers.
He credits former All-Star Gil Meche for a lot of his success. The two spent four seasons together in Kansas City.
As he enters his 13th season, Greinke now wants to pay it forward.
“They should all benefit from what they see from Zack,” Hale said. “If you watch Zack throw his sides, for example — and we’ll do that as we get going, we’ll have our starters watch some of our older pitchers throw their sides — just the tactician that he is and how much he puts into these bullpens. I think that in itself will help (our pitchers).”
The D-backs invested $206.5 million over six years in Greinke, arguably baseball’s best pitcher.
Last season, the 32-year-old was the National League Cy Young runner-up, an All-Star and won his second straight Gold Glove Award after posting a Major League-leading 1.66 ERA, .864 winning percentage, 30 quality starts and 0.844 WHIP. He finished second in the Majors with a .187 opponents’ batting average and tied for second in the NL with a career-high 19 wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His ERA was the lowest in the Majors since 1995.
“I don’t think you can build on it. That’s about as good as it’s going to be for me and probably not that good again,” Greinke said, eliciting laughter.
“Last year, what I did for the most part — and what I hope to do this year — is just think about one pitch at a time, make it as good as I can. If I make a bad pitch, think about the next pitch and make that pitch as good as I can and just do it like that for a full season and hopefully the results take care of themselves. That’s kind of how ideally you do it. But, I guess, when things go bad it’s a little tougher to do it than when things are working good for you. That would be the key is if there’s like a tough stretch if I can keep the same simple mindset.”
With Greinke, offseason trade acquisition Shelby Miller and a healthy Patrick Corbin, the D-backs hope to improve a pitching staff that in 2015 finished ninth in the league in ERA (4.04), 11th in quality starts (69), 10th in WHIP (1.33) and 10th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43).
Those are big-picture goals.
Greinke’s goals in his first season with the D-backs are smaller.
“I don’t really look too far in advance,” he said. “Probably my goal would be to be able to keep it simple for the whole year and think one pitch at a time and make adjustments whenever I have to and do whatever you have to do to stay healthy; just to keep the right track throughout the whole season and not get off track is more of the plan.”
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