PHOENIX -- Free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke has finally selected someone to handle his business. Sort of. "He's talked to me about representing him until he gets an agent, so I'm working with him," left fielder Ryan Braun said. "I tell him I'll only charge him one percent if he lets me do it."
Seriously? "Half-serious," Braun said. "We do talk about it all the time. We talk about comps. We talk about everything. We're not dead serious, but I'll give him a deal." Whether Greinke strikes a deal with the Brewers remains to be seen. He is entering the final season of the four-year contract he inked with the Royals, and if Greinke gets to October without an extension, he would be one of baseball's most sought-after free agents. He has been operating for more than a year without an agent, though both Greinke and the Brewers have said they are open to talks this spring. Greinke told reporters on Sunday that he was done talking about business, and he stuck to that declaration after working 5 1/3 sharp innings against the Angels on Friday afternoon.
Likewise, Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin wouldn't say where the process stood. He'd previously said he planned to sit down with Greinke to discuss some parameters. On Friday, Melvin declined to reveal whether that chat had occurred."Any negotiations we have," Melvin said, "are going to stay private." Perhaps Braun will snag a seat at the table. "I know that he thoroughly enjoys it here," Braun said. "I also know that he's smart enough to recognize what his value would be as a free agent. But he enjoys being around us, the atmosphere, all of the other starting pitchers being talented and competitive. It's fun. He's much more talkative, outgoing and comfortable [compared to last year], for sure." Here's another change from last year: Greinke is healthy and pitching in Spring Training. He worked a nine-strikeout, scoreless gem against the Angels at Maryvale Baseball Park on Friday and appeared ready for the bright lights of the regular season. Greinke has allowed one earned run in four Cactus League outings spanning 12 1/3 innings, good for a 0.73 ERA. More impressive: He has 20 strikeouts and one walk. Asked for the view from the GM's suite, Melvin said, "I look at the view in the box score. He's pretty good." "I think he's very motivated," Braun said. "I know he's very disappointed with the season he had last year, and I know he knows he can do better." Which is sort of amazing on both fronts. After missing all of last April because of a cracked rib -- Greinke was hurt playing pick-up basketball in Spring Training -- he was 16-6 in the regular season with a 3.83 ERA, including 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 15 home starts and 9-3 with a 2.61 ERA in his final 16 starts, regardless of venue. Greinke made only 28 starts but topped 200 strikeouts, leading qualifying National League pitchers with 10.54 strikeouts per nine innings. He was fourth in the league with 4.47 strikeouts per walk, trailing the Phillies' Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. He knows it," Braun said. "We all know it, too. He expects to dominate. I really think he's going to have a great year, like, another Cy Young year. A full year of Zack being healthy is going to be tremendous for our team." Greinke is taking something of a different approach to this camp. Instead of "working on things," as many pitchers do in March, he's following more of a Yovani Gallardo philosophy: Pitch like it's the regular season. Typically, Greinke uses his first four spring starts to work on different pitches, focusing on one each time out, then uses his full arsenal in his final three outings. This time around, Greinke said, he has been throwing everything from the start. "I felt that last year, the thing I needed to work on was making good pitches when I needed to," Greinke said. "So, the only way to do that is to kind of throw everything from the get-go." On Friday, he threw "at least" 20 cut fastballs, the new pitch Greinke is adding to his arsenal this spring. One of his best cutters helped Greinke out of a jam in the fifth inning, when two errors, one Greinke's own, and a hit batter loaded the bases with two out. Greinke fired a cutter in on Erick Aybar's hands for a swinging strike three. "I think maybe [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] talked to Lucroy about throwing it, because he called it more than usual," Greinke said. "It might have been the plan I didn't know about it. I struggled with it against righties. Every time I threw it to a lefty, it felt good." After slogging through the fifth inning, Greinke asked manager Ron Roenicke to start the sixth, a test to see if he could regroup. Greinke struck out Howard Kendrick, and Roenicke and Kranitz decided that was enough. He threw 76 pitches. Then he kept the postgame conversation to baseball. Free agency could wait. "Everyone always gets excited about the real games coming," Greinke said. "Maybe, the last week, week-and-a-half, people get antsy. It hasn't gotten to that yet."