With a player that has much success and his routine is down to a science, the best advice for Diamondbacks’ decision-makers and players is to leave Zach Greinke alone. Maybe this is like that old Frank Sinatra song, “my way.”
Not that Greinke is inaccessible, signs from the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse seem to be the antithesis of his public persona. Reserved, and answering media questions in usually a few words or a single sentence, the perception of Greinke behind closed doors is much different. Communicating with teammates, studying the game and always working on ways to improve, Greinke seems grounded in discipline and order.
In his first start of the spring Friday, Greinke gave a glimpse of both his production and work ethic. This spring, manager Chip Hale told reporters the organization has two considerations with Greinke. One is that the right-hander prepares well leading up to the opener on April 4, and he avoid injuries. Noting that his approach is smart and careful, Greinke said after his outing Friday against Oakland that he is careful to avoid a few nagging injuries which plagued him during past spring training sessions.
As important as the work ethic and preparation is his battery mate. Citing Dodgers’ catcher A. J. Ellis as the most prepared, Greinke said he is beginning to build a comfort level with Welington Castillo, his likely catcher this season. The preference, Greinke repeated Friday and stated earlier this spring, is to throw to essentially to one catcher during the season.
“I like how he handles the pitchers,” Greinke said of his budding relationship with Castillo. “I like to throw the same catcher, because they get to know you, and how to better catch you. You don’t get that feel with a different catcher in there. So far, (Castillo) is pretty darn good.”
In going against the A’s Friday at Salt River, Greinke deemed his first outing of the spring a success. After throwing 25 pitches and 16 for strikes, he later repaired to the Diamondbacks’ bullpen and threw another eight pitches. “Not working on anything special, but just to get loose,” he said. Of the six hitters he faced, Greinke threw only one, first-pitch strike, and started off the game with a curve to A’s outfielder Billy Burns. “That was Greinke’s idea on the curve,” Castillo smiled afterward.
Still, Greinke pitched with economy of pitchers and intelligently spotted his fast ball. “Solid fast ball command,” was Castillo’s observation, and Greinke allowed only one hit. That was a single by Yonder Alonso down the left field line to lead-off the second, who was subsequently thrown out by Yasmany Tomas in an attempt to stretch the hit into a double.
“With that fast ball command, he was really good working both sides of the plate,” Castillo said. “His change was pretty good, but he threw mostly fastballs, in and out. I feel very comfortable with him.”
From early indications, the Castillo-Greinke battery is off to a strong start. Though establishing a sound, comfort level remains in its embryonic stage, all indications point to a growing connection established on trust and confidence.
“You can see that Castillo and Grienke are building a good relationship,” Hale said. “(Greinke) worked hard (Friday), and we wanted to Zach to push hard. He did that, and that was good to see.”
Ever the student of the game, Greinke left his session with the media and headed straight for the video room. With his chin resting on his hand and his concentration level heightened. Greinke was back at work and thinking ahead.
The Diamondbacks play their first spring game away from Salt River on Saturday. That’s when they take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.
Right-hander Shelby Miller gets to the start for Arizona and Braden Shipley, Yoan Lopez and Andrew Chafin are slated to follow. The Dodgers will start right-hander Kenta Maeda.
On Sunday, the Diamondbacks return to Salt River to engage the Cubs at 1:10 p.m.. Lefty Patrick Corbin gets his initial start of the spring, and Matt Koch, Randall Delgado and Will Locante is scheduled to follow. The Cubs are slated to start right-hander Adam Warren.