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For Diamondbacks, Zack Greinke goes from rival to ace

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke talks to the media during a press conference, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Phoenix. Greinke could have stayed with the Los Angeles Dodgers or gone up the coast to the San Francisco Giants. Instead, he signed a massive contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, dramatically shifting the landscape in the NL West. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Zack Greinke, D-backs Pitcher

The Arizona Diamondbacks are not supposed to sign free agents like Zack Greinke.

They’re especially not supposed to sign free agents like Zack Greinke away from the Los Angeles Dodgers on a six-year deal worth a reported $206 million

Yet, that’s exactly what happened last week, as arguably the best pitcher on the free agent market spurned the team he had pitched for the previous three seasons to join a division rival who views him as a missing piece to a championship puzzle.

It was a stunning coup for the D-backs, and a devastating blow to the Dodgers. Once a division rival who played a central role in the infamous bean-ball brawl of 2013, Greinke has now switched sides. A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, he said there was no bad blood to get over before making his decision.

“I guess I just view it kind of as just baseball, kind of happens,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in L.A. thinks about it anymore; I don’t think think anyone in Arizona even thinks about it anymore. It’s been a while and I think everyone’s completely got rid of all their grudges and just kind of gone about playing them.”

If D-backs fans are having a tough time accepting Greinke as one of their own, it may help that he claims to have not gone diving into the Chase Field pool in 2013 as the Dodgers celebrated an NL West title. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award runner-up after posting a 19-3 record with a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, Greinke said he does not focus on anything other than getting the next batter out.

Over the last handful of seasons he has done that better than most.

In three seasons with the Dodgers, he went 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA, striking out 555 batters in 602.2 innings. Few pitchers in the National League could claim to have been better, though Greinke’s former teammate, Clayton Kershaw, is one of them.

The NL Cy Young winner in two of the last three seasons, Kershaw combined with Greinke to form one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball. With Greinke now a Diamondback, chances are good the two will oppose each other at least a few times during the course of the season, creating the kind of pitching matchup most fans drool over.

Greinke said he does not think about facing off against Kershaw or any pitcher, instead just worrying about whoever is in the batter’s box when he’s on the mound. Though he acknowledges it will be tough to go against Kershaw because he is the best pitcher in the game, the three-time All-Star Greinke said he gets into trouble when he tries to do too much.

So, when he takes the mound against the Dodgers and maybe Kershaw, you should not expect Greinke to try and prove a point or do anything else you might expect from a player when he first plays against his former team. Greinke said he texted Kershaw when he decided to join the Diamondbacks, and his former teammate was understandably disappointed because he wanted the right-hander to stick around.

“He wanted me to stay and I liked playing there,” Greinke said. “I’m going to miss playing with him.”

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