Greinke tops among AL hurlers in April

Greinke tops among AL hurlers in April

KANSAS CITY -- Zack Greinke is walking part of the trail blazed by Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 when there was a feverish outbreak of "Fernando-mania." Will there be "Zack-mania?"

"There won't be," Greinke said. "I guarantee it."

Maybe not but Greinke is making temperatures rise around Kansas City as he continues his remarkable pitching for the first-place Royals.

On Tuesday, he was named American League Pitcher of the Month for April for his 5-0 record, 0.50 ERA and 44 strikeouts -- all tops in the Majors.

Other hurlers considered for the award included Seattle's Felix Hernandez (4-0, 2.38 ERA), veteran Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (2-1, 1.86, two complete games), and Toronto right-hander Roy Halladay (4-1, 32 strikeouts in 36 innings).

The award came on the day after Greinke began May with another victory, a shutout of the Chicago White Sox.

Shades of 1981, when the 20-year-old Valenzuela began his rookie season for the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-0 record, a 0.50 ERA and five shutouts in his first eight starts, all complete games. When Valenzuela got win No. 8 on May 14, 1981, a crowd of 56,000 jammed Dodger Stadium to watch him beat the Montreal Expos, 3-2.

"I saw stuff of the Fernando-mania and that was just crazy," Greinke said. "Last night was just a great game, but it wasn't in that class."

It was enough to stir a crowd of 21,843 -- no doubt inflated handsomely by Greinke's appearance -- to extend several standing ovations.

Greinke's next start will be Saturday night against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.

The Pitcher of the Month award is a first for Greinke, who will receive a specially designed trophy and a 52-inch Sharp Aquos TV.

"It's pretty exciting. It's not easy to do," he said. "I felt like I pitched good a couple times before and didn't get it. So it's pretty nice, it's not easy to do that."

Greinke was careful to spread the credit around, mentioning pitching coach Bob McClure and catcher Miguel Olivo.

"There's no way I would've got that without Mac and Olivo," he said. "Mac giving me kind of a plan on how to pitch and Olivo making sure I do it each time."

He's also sure to give credit to his defense, noting the help he got on Monday night from first baseman Billy Butler on digging out a throw to complete a double play and a diving stop by second baseman Alberto Callaspo in the ninth.

"There's a lot of peripheral help defensively no doubt," manager Trey Hillman agreed. "Zack's done the majority of it, but when they have put the ball in play, we've made some nice plays behind him -- the double play in the eighth inning last night and the play that Callaspo made on [Chris] Getz to lead off the ninth."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.