MILWAUKEE — It wasn’t long ago that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke sat in the team’s dugout and spoke of the life his now-former pitcher Zack Greinke was going to live in Anaheim, the place Roenicke used to call home. He could get himself a place near the beach, Roenicke said. It was a good fit, he said, smiling.
Three weeks later, however, the rest of the baseball world is wondering if Roenicke’s original assumption will ever prove to be true. Since joining the Angels, the Brewers former ace has experienced one of the worst slumps of his career, registering a 6.19 ERA and walking batters at almost twice the rate he did in Milwaukee — 3.7 walks per nine innings, as opposed to 2.0 with the Brewers. In his last four starts as an Angel, opposing batters are hitting .316 off of him.
The former Cy Young winner looks like a shell of his former self, to say the least.
All the while, his former manager has kept tabs on him. Roenicke said on Monday that he’s caught a few of Greinke’s starts and spoke to some members of the Angels’ organization about the right-hander’s struggles. Still, he remains confident that Greinke will turn it around.
“I still think he’s going to have some good starts for them,” Roenicke said. “I think that last month, he’s going to do well.”
But Roenicke can’t explain much about why the former Brewers’ ace has faltered so spectacularly in his first few starts in Anaheim. In the bottom of the second inning in the Angels’ matchup with Oakland on August 8, Greinke walked five batters in a single inning — a feat previously unprecedented in Greinke’s career.
If there’s any explanation to offer from Greinke’s former manager, it’s that the pitcher known for his meticulous preparation, routine, and to some degree, his anxiety disorder, just hasn’t found the comfort necessary for him to excel in his new home.
“I do (think comfortability is an issue),” Roenicke said. “You take a guy like him, and he’s real structured in everything he does. He got real comfortable here with how things were going, and now you put him with a whole new coaching staff, a whole new team, that’s not easy. He knows (Angels reliever LaTroy) Hawkins there now, and that’s it probably. It’s not that easy to just be yourself and go through the same routines that you always do when the surroundings are so different.”
But even for Greinke, his struggles have been just as hard to explain.
“I’m maybe trying to be nastier than I should be,” Greinke told reporters on Sunday. “It’s been very embarrassing the first month I’ve been here. I’m getting paid a lot to do better than I’m doing. It’s not acceptable, really.”