Right-hander Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks to bounce back in 2017
Last spring, right-hander Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks arrived in the desert amid great fanfare. Clearly, Greinke was the most sought-after free agent of the 2015 class, and a pitcher of proven productivity.
His presence on any team was considered a game-changer, and Grenike’s numbers and vision of the game were concerned a welcomed addition to any club.
In 2015, Greinke was coming off a stellar season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s when the native of Orlando, Fla. went 19-3 with a microscopic 1.66 ERA. As a free agent, rumors placed Greinke returning the Dodgers or ending up with the Giants.
During that off-season, the Diamondbacks were not in any conversation and totally shocked the baseball world with his signing. When Ken Kendrick, the club’s managing general partner, opened his checkbook and scribbled a bunch of zeros after the number two, the amount, settling at $206 million for six years, soared the organization into the stratosphere of prodigious contracts.
After Greinke arrived at Salt River, he surveyed his new club, took account of the players in the clubhouse and declared the 2016 version of the Diamondbacks as the greatest array of talent he was associated. While claiming his new teammates might be short on experience, Greinke said he was excited about joining such a group with a great deal of potential.
That all came crashing down on opening night.
In facing the Colorado Rockies in Chase Field on April 4, Greinke latest only four innings, allowed nine hits, seven runs and three home runs. Greinke started the season with two losses and a no-decision, and did not pick up his first win until April 20. That night, he defeated the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, 2-1 in San Francisco.
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Still, Greinke had a great run through the middle of the season. From that victory on April 20, he lost only one game in his next 15 starts. Landing on the disabled list with strained left oblique from late June until nearly mid-August, Greinke returned to the rotation and defeated the Mets in Chase Field on Aug. 9. Overall, he finished with a season-mark of 13-7 and an ERA of 4.37. That was the second-highest ERA of his career. Only a 5.17 ERA (5-17) with the 2005 Kansas City Royals was higher.
“As a whole, the season did not go as planned,” Greinke said after his final start in 2016. “That’s just about the whole season for the team and for myself. For the most part, it was just a couple injuries earlier and not getting off on a good foot. We didn’t do as planned. Thought we’d do a lot better than we did.”
From a personal standpoint, Greinke thought he performed at a satisfactory level.
“Me, I thought I pitched all right,” he said. “At the beginning, I felt like I ran into somewhat bad luck. That was for the first month, maybe, the first month and a half. Then, I stated to pitch better. I was starting to pitch really good until I hurt my oblique, which was bad timing. Once I came back from the oblique, I was not quite as sharp as I needed to be. It was all right, but next year hopefully will be better.”
In the past, Greinke said he felt comfortable throwing to one catcher. Two years ago, that was A. J. Ellis when he was with the Dodgers and last season, that catcher was Welington Castillo. Now, Greinke may have to align himself with several veterans. Both Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, signed by Arizona general manager Mike Hazen in the current off-season, are in their mid-30s, and neither is penciled in to catch 130 games or beyond.
This may be a period of adjustment for Greinke and that all begins Monday Feb. 13. That’s when pitchers and catchers report to the Diamondbacks’ spring camp at Salt River.