Zack Greinke focusing on positives heading into new season
“My goal this year is to not complain about anything,” Greinke said. “There are a lot of things that when you get my age that you could complain about. Not throwing as hard. Not feeling as good. Not running as fast. I’m just trying to think positive and not let negative thoughts creep into your mind.”
Greinke, 35, will make his fourth opening day start against the six-time defending NL West-champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, marking the beginning of his 16th season.
Greinke has won 45 games in his three seasons with Arizona after signing a six-year, $206.5 million free agent contract in the winter of 2015, and he came within one strikeout of his sixth career 200 strikeout/200 inning season last year. Since 2008, only Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez have more than five.
“It’s nice,” Greinke said of his opening day assignment. “I don’t really care about that stuff as a sentimental thing. I like pitching a lot, so it gives me the best chance to make 33, 34 starts. I like that part of it.”
Greinke has made at least 32 starts in every injury-free season since 2008, and he has won at least 10 games in all 11 seasons since. Greinke, Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela are the only three pitchers in major league history to win Cy Young, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
The ability to take on a heavy workload “is part of the job,” Greinke said.
“I hope it continues that way for the next 50 years, where that is the goal of the team and players to make their starts,” he added. “It’s what your job is. Look forward to that. Hope to do that every year.”
Greinke, 15-11 last season after pitching through right shoulder soreness in the first month or so, said he had no health issues this spring.
“Hopefully it stays that way,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot of outs, but a long way to go.”
Greinke has stayed competitive by adjusting his attack as his velocity dipped slightly. Greinke’s fastball averaged a career-low 89.6 mph last season, according to FanGraphs. He compensated by throwing a slightly higher percentage of curveballs and changeups while moving away from his slider and cut fastball.
The curve and changeup graded out as his most effective pitches, and he led the majors with 37 strikeouts on pitches timed at 70 mph or less thanks to a slow, slow curve that lands at 65-66.
“The way I look at right now is, if I throw 88-89 (mph) and command it, that’s better than 89-90 with a little bit less command,” Greinke said. “I’d rather try to command what I have. Whatever is working, I keep doing. Some things work a little bit differently each year, and I just try to see that.”
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has followed Greinke’s adjustments firsthand.
“He came up as a 95-96 (mph) fireballer who has learned how to pitch over the course of the last 12, 13 seasons,” Lovullo said.
“He gets outs with every pitch, which is really, really impressive. He is attacking weaknesses. He has a really good game plan . as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. There is a reason for it, and that is all the hard work he puts in behind the scenes.”