Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Fly Route

March 2, 2006

I don't understand Zack Greinke, and as a Royals fan, I'm not too inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Greinke, supposedly still a top pitching prospect despite a disgusting 2005 campaign, recently left the Royals' spring training facilities in Surprise, Ariz., and returned home to Florida to deal with "personal problems."

Reports have quickly clarified what exactly those problems may be, too. No, it's not likely family related. He's not sick, injured or running from the police.

No, Greinke is most likely just mad. Or sad. Either way, it's ridiculous.

Greinke may be upset because it was recently announced he isn't guaranteed a spot on the Royals' starting pitching rotation come the April 3 season opener. And maybe he has a point. He was a very solid pitcher when first called to the big leagues in 2004, posting a 3.97 earned run average.

More important than his stats that season, he showed that he really did have the potential baseball insiders claimed he did. If Greinke was to live up to his hype, he'd have to eventually do better than allowing four runs every nine innings, but it was a great start.

After last season I can't imagine how he expects anything, however. Greinke fell off the planet in 2005, blowing his ERA up to 5.80 en route to a 5-17 record.

Pitchers milling around the 6.00 ERA mark aren't allowed to complain about anything in spring training the following season. Pitchers getting hammered at that rate should be shutting up, working hard and praying they don't get packed down to the minors.

Obviously I don't know what it's like to be a super-prospect pitcher. I'm sure there was a ton of pressure on Greinke and there's plenty of evidence the Royals didn't supply him adequate help, either from his position coach, Guy Hansen, or from the players surrounding him.

But why on earth leave training camp?

It's a blatantly immature move and Greinke's tender age is obviously the thing people point to, but this isn't a pitcher that was rushed to the big leagues. The Royals showed some restraint in bringing their top pick in the 2002 draft to the majors. They held off in 2003 and didn't bring him up until things began to look bleak in the 2004 season.

Between being drafted right out of high school and getting shelled last season, Greinke supposedly became a man. I have yet to see the proof.

I wish the Royals had handled the situation better because honestly, they need him to live up to his potential. But Greinke's a big boy now and part of being a big boy is sometimes dealing with situations you don't like.

Fans still believed and still cheered last year when he served up home runs like McDonalds does Big Macs, and they'd probably still have cheered this year.

In fact, I bet everyone cheers if Greinke pitches again. I probably will, too. I still have to hope he can turn the corner, pull it together and at least provide the team with something.

But reading about his childish flight from training camp doesn't exactly leave me optimistic.

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