The Brewers, in fact, are in a crucial nine-game stretch against the three teams ahead of them in the Central: the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds. Greinke was scheduled to start against St. Louis on Wednesday at Miller Park, but he won't be making that start. He won't be starting against the Reds this weekend, either. His next start will be on July 24 at Philadelphia. The Trade Deadline is a week later.
Greinke is not, by any account, injured. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said that the pitcher needed to "recharge his batteries." Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said that having Greinke miss a start was intended to get him "back on track." Greinke said he was going along with whatever Roenicke said.
Roenicke second-guessed himself Monday for allowing Greinke to pitch in three consecutive games, although this was a long way from pitching on three consecutive days. The first start in question, on July 7, lasted just four pitches before Greinke was ejected. The second, on July 8, lasted just three innings and the third, last Friday against the Pirates to begin the Brewers' second half, came on regular rest. Greinke gave up three earned runs in three innings in the July 8 start. He gave up five earned runs in five innings in the most recent start.
In retrospect, Roenicke said, starting Greinke the day after he was ejected may have been a mistake. "I wasn't 100 percent comfortable and committed with that, but I didn't think it was that big of an issue," Roenicke said. "We tried to do something with Zack that Zack thought was kind of neat and we thought it would work. We tried to have him throw that back-to-back game first, after the game he was thrown out. Then we tried to get him to be the first guy back after the break, because we wanted him to be the first guy. We thought he was pitching the best of our starters.
"And it didn't work. He didn't pitch well that second day, after the day he was thrown out and he didn't pitch well [last Friday]. He didn't feel the same. He just didn't feel right. It got him out his routine. The All-Star Game didn't help because he didn't have a bullpen in between those two starts.
"So to try to get him back on track for the second half, we know it's important for him to pitch well for us, we've bumped him a start. We did the same thing with Yo [Yovani Gallardo]. He pitched on nine days' rest [Sunday]. We pushed him back for that reason; it would give him a little bit of a blow. He came out and pitched great. Hopefully, we can get Zack back on his routine, pitching the way we know he can. We felt this was the best way to do it.
"When I asked him about this last start, he said he did not feel right. Whether it was fatigue, that first inning of the second day he pitched was a long inning. And I think that inning messed him up a little bit as far as feeling good to go through that game well. He went three innings in it, and we still thought he would be fine coming back after the All-Star break. And we probably put too much on him, thinking he was going to be fine. And he wasn't.
"So this is our best way, talking with him, trying to get him back on the right track. I know you guys are trying to make a big thing out of this. But I think this is the right way to do this. Instead of bumping him back maybe a couple of days, just give him that start off and get him right again."
The games against the Cards and Reds are important, not only for the race for postseason berths, but for the Brewers in defining their direction for the remainder of this season. Their current position may be closer to seller than buyer, but they still have higher aspirations. They have two weeks to figure out who and what they are.
In light of all the speculation about Greinke's status, Roenicke's comments that Greinke's long-term effectiveness was more important than these games might be instructive.
"These games are important, but the more important thing is we need to get him pitching well," the manager said. "The longer range is a lot more important than just bringing him back against St. Louis."
Greinke, who spoke briefly to reporters after Roenicke's session with the media, was clearly not comfortable dealing with this topic. "What did Ron say exactly?" Greinke said. After Greinke was informed of what Roenicke had said, he responded: "Sound good to me."
Greinke, who is usually the soul of candor in dealing with the media, closed out his session with reporters by saying "Sorry." It was polite of him to say that, but it was not necessary.
This episode doesn't do much for Greinke's standing in the trade market, or even the trade rumor market. The future of the 2012 Brewers still hangs in the balance and Greinke's own future isn't going to be clarified much until he makes his next start.