ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

D-backs ace Zack Greinke ‘felt strong’ in longest outing of spring

Mar 23, 2017, 6:05 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning ...

Arizona Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For obvious reasons, Zack Greinke’s outings receive a bit of extra attention and scrutiny.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ highest paid player, he is looking to bounce back from a disappointing debut season in the desert and once again become one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The D-backs have taken things slow with the 33-year-old this spring, and on Thursday at Salt River Fields against the Chicago Cubs, he made just his second Cactus League start.

Greinke left without recording an out in the sixth inning, having allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts in what ended as a 5-5 tie. Fifty-five of Greinke’s 83 pitches were strikes.

“It was going a little slow early on, but I felt pretty strong out there today,” Greinke said. “Made a couple mistakes, but it was definitely the highest percentage of executed pitches so far. Then I felt pretty good, throughout the most part.

“The last inning got a little sloppy, but besides that it was solid.”

The most distinguishable blemish on Greinke’s outing was a home run he surrendered to Chicago pitcher Jake Arrieta to lead off the third inning. The blast came off a pitch Greinke said wasn’t one of his best, and it went an estimated 464 feet.

Outside of that errant pitch, the right-hander was fairly sharp against a dangerous Cubs lineup that he hesitated to say was “nice” to face.

“I mean, nice I guess when you do OK — it’d be bad if you gave up 10 runs,” he said. “But some good hitters, good at-bats, a deeper lineup. My last game, the team was pretty solid, too, but it was like an All-Star-type environment where this is like a real team putting up a team approach, more so.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has always expressed faith in his ace and Thursday said he felt Greinke threw the ball well.

“He had some great sequences, he was finishing off some hitters and the depth of his breaking ball was quality — he threw some quality changeups,” he said. “So I thought overall, it was a very positive outing for Zack.”

In other words, as Opening Day nears, Greinke’s arrow is pointing in an upward direction.

“It would be nice to have another one even better next outing and do what I can to keep it moving forward,” he said.

BASE HITS

– Center fielder A.J. Pollock (groin) was set to return to action Thursday, but Lovullo did not want to send him out there on a wet field after it rained Wednesday night.

– After Arrieta gave the Cubs the lead, the D-backs took it right back on an opposite field blast from third baseman Jake Lamb. It was Lamb’s third home run of the Cactus League slate.

“It’s the second time I think he’s hit a home run in that area — he had one in the first game of the spring, off the top of my head — but any time he gets some extension to that part of the diamond, it’s a big part of the diamond, and not a lot of people get a chance to go that way and hit balls that far,” Lovullo said. “So he’s a pretty impressive hitter, and it was a pretty impressive swing.”

– Gregor Blanco was set to start in center field Thursday, but just prior to first pitch it was announced that Jeremy Hazelbaker would take his spot. Turns out, Blanco suffered an injury.

“He just has some right-side tightness and he’s going to be day-to-day,” Lovullo said. “One of those things, we’ll get him in here, reevaluate him tomorrow and have some more details as we’re getting the information.”

Lovullo went on to say the D-backs think they’ll be able to create a timeline for Blanco’s return Friday, but there was no need to force Blanco into the lineup at this point in the spring.

– Brandon Drury continued his torrid spring, collecting two more hits against the Cubs to raise his Cactus League batting average to .435.

– Prior to the game, Lovullo said outfielder Yasmany Tomas (oblique) was progressing, and barring a setback should be back on the field for a game in the next couple of days. As of now, the skipper thinks he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

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