Offseason prize Greinke ready for OD start

Presence of right-hander has already benefited D-backs

Offseason prize Greinke ready for OD start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Starting on Opening day is not a big deal for D-backs ace Zack Greinke. After all, the right-hander puts just as much time and attention into a mid-August start as he will for Monday's opener against the Rockies (6:40 p.m. MST game time).

There is one added benefit, though, for Greinke, who has started one other opener in his career back in 2010 for the Royals.

"The only thing I liked about it is all the announcing players you don't have to deal with when you're pitching," Greinke said of the traditional Opening Day player introductions. "And if you're not, you have to go get introduced and all that nonsense."

The D-backs surprised the baseball world when they jumped into the running for Greinke at the final minutes and inked him to a six-year, $206.5 million deal.

Greinke arrived at the team's Salt River Fields Spring Training complex a few weeks before camp opened, and not long after that, manager Chip Hale said he began to notice a difference.

"Once Zack threw his first bullpen and guys sort of were milling around watching him, just the way they went about their bullpen sessions was completely different," Hale said. "Instead of just throwing, throwing, throwing, there was a purpose to every pitch. And if you watch Zack throw, that's what you see -- there's a purpose to every pitch. So that was an immediate change in our guys, I felt like."

Hale termed it the "Greinke Effect" and said it was similar to the impact that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's work ethic and approach to the game has on the position players.

Greinke is extremely observant and watches other pitchers throw their bullpen sessions.

"I've taken something from just about every average to above-average pitcher that I've ever played with," Greinke said. "It's just what you do. See what they do and see how you could put that into your game."

Greinke escapes of early trouble

Last season, Greinke led the Majors in ERA (1.66), winning percentage (.864), WHIP (0.84) and quality starts (30), and he finished second in the National League Cy Young Award race.

When they signed him, though, the D-backs talked not just about his performance on the field, but also the leadership he would bring to the pitching staff.

That's translated this spring, with Greinke spending time talking with the organization's younger pitchers if he notices something that he thinks might help them.

And it hasn't been just the pitchers. At least one D-backs hitter has also benefited from Greinke's presence, asking him how he went about getting him out when they faced each other.

As for fitting into the clubhouse, Goldschmidt said that it has been seamless and that the public perception of Greinke as odd or different is off-base.

"He's awesome," Goldschmidt said. "I always liked competing against him on the mound. He's a tremendous competitor; you always knew you were going to get 100 percent. The guy is as normal as everyone in here. It's probably fine that people [outside] think he's different, but he's really just one of the guys in here."

Greinke's final tuneup came in a Minor League intrasquad game Tuesday, when he threw around 60 pitches and faced center fielder A.J. Pollock four times.

"Looking forward to it," Greinke said of Opening Day. "I think I'm as ready as I will be. Health-wise, feel great. It all feels good. Stuff-wise, feels pretty good."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.