It’s not that Dodgers’ pitcher Zack Greinke doesn’t like the media. Rather, when he deals with the press it doesn’t allow him to prepare mentally and physically for his next outing.
On this five-man rotation that includes staff ace Clayton Kershaw, a two-time Cy Young winner, Greinke, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, merely wants to do his part.
After being drafted by Kansas City in the first round (sixth overall) in 2002, Greinke has been a consistent performer during an 11-year career, including a 23-6 record with a 2.60 earned-run average for the Dodgers over the last two seasons.
At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Greinke doesn’t look like a power pitcher, but is after striking out 200 or more batters three times, and with 83 this season is well on his way to a fourth.
Greinke’s arsenal is extensive as he can throw a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, and cutter, which has helped him fashion seasons of 16 wins (twice), 15 (twice) and 13 (once).
The Dodgers (31-28) are in second place, seven games behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West, and like most teams that contend rely on their pitching staff.
So far, the 30-year-old Greinke has more than done his part, owning an 8-2 mark with a 2.50 ERA and 16 walks.
In Greinke’s last performance, a 5-3 setback to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, the right-hander from Orlando, Florida, allowed a season-high four earned runs, striking out seven, walking two with five hits.
The four runs also snapped a streak of 23 consecutive starts in which Greinke gave up three or fewer runs.
“We haven’t strung together tons of wins, but I feel we’re playing really well,’’ said Greinke, who leads the Senior Circuit with eight wins. “If we continue to, we’ll compete against whoever for first place in our division. The wild card should be easily within reach.”
Before the 2014 season began with a two-game series in Sydney, Australia, Greinke was asked if he was looking forward to the long trip and pitching in a foreign land.
Greinke, a Cy Young winner in 2009 with the Royals when he went 16-8 with a career-high 242 strikeouts and 51 walks with a personal-best 2.16 ERA, angered some when he said he wasn’t, saying it was silly to open the campaign so many miles away.
The Dodgers’ front office which includes General Manager Ned Colletti said Greinke was entitled to his opinion, but the Dodgers were happy to open the season in the land “Down Under.”
Manager Don Mattingly echoed a similar theme when asked what he thought of Greinke’s remarks, but in the end Greinke didn’t make the trip because he injured his leg in a spring training game.
Big-league ballplayers, and especially pitchers who take the hill every five days, are creatures of habit. And while it’s nice to export baseball around the globe, having to play so far from home meant the Dodgers would leave camp early, which would take the players out of their routine.
Greinke, who signed a $147-million, six-year deal with the Dodgers, is low-key and wants nothing more than to help his team win without fanfare.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.