GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every time new Brewers ace Zack Greinke speaks publicly -- which isn't all that often since he only agrees to talk on days he pitches -- he reveals something more about his complicated self.
Greinke, talking after his unremarkable Brewers debut, said he felt he "had to play the bad guy" in loudly asking for a trade from the Royals so that his original team and its general manager, Dayton Moore, wouldn't have to take such a major hit for trading their a popular player.
"If I kept being a great person, the fans would have been outraged [when I was traded]," Greinke explained. "The fans, I don't know why, but they really liked me there."
Greinke promised to try to make that question about the Royals the last query he would ever answer on the subject. That said, Greinke has made it clear he is thrilled to be out of Kansas City.
He is known to have social anxiety disorder, which has been well chronicled. But he also has a deep aversion to rebuilding teams. And one person who knows Greinke well said the former Royals star was actually talking about not showing up at all in spring if the Royals never found a trade for him. It isn't certain he would have done that, but the friend said he discussed it.
Though he knew he wanted out of Kansas City, which has a promising future but looks like it will have a brutal present, Greinke wasn't sure where he wanted to be. He told friends he didn't think he could play in Boston or New York. But when he and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met clandestinely in Orlando (Greinke's hometown) at an off-site location during the winter meetings, Greinke's desperation not to endure yet another losing season in Kansas City was such that he is said to have tried to convince Cashman that he wanted to come to New York. And that he could actually thrive in New York.
However, people who were briefed on that meeting said Cashman ultimately decided that Greinke's first thought about New York was probably correct -- that it wasn't the best spot for him. Greinke told people the day he accepted his Cy Young Award in New York City that he didn't think he could ever live in New York, and kept telling friends the same. But as the days dwindled this winter, he made his surprise plea to Cashman to make him a Yankee.
The Yankees, on paper, seemed like a fit. They had Greinke's less talented brother in their farm system and they were desperate for great pitching. But members of the organization are all believed to have sided with Cashman in a winter where he was occasionally overturned (most notably on Rafael Soriano).
Greinke was charming in his biggest national interview since becoming a Brewer (there were about 20 reporters, which is about 15 more than he'll face daily in Milwaukee) and came off a bit kidlike in his personality. He wore a sly smile and only occasionally looked up at the questioner. One time he asked that a reporter from Kansas City repeat himself because Greinke was laughing so hard at the sight of him, so he couldn't focus on the question.
After a debut that was less than perfect but, according to Greinke, typical of his first spring outing (he allowed three walks and one hit but no runs in 1 1/3 innings), he pointed to a couple of problems. Namely that he was "up'' with his fastball and couldn't get a good grip on his curve, two fair issues. Greinke also is nursing a side injury that was covered with tape and a contraption that he couldn't identify. He said his injury occurred while doing something "off field and stupid,'' but it doesn't appear serious as it didn't prevent his from pitching.
Greinke was refreshingly honest, quite polite and he didn't seem to find anyone "annoying.'' (He caused a stir in a rare previous interview by saying that he hadn't found any Brewers teammates "annoying'' yet and suggesting he thought media interviews were a waste of time.) Instead, he actually praised the Brewers' clubhouse, noting that it seemed "a lot looser" than Kansas City's, possibly, he speculated, because it was populated by players who know they don't have to "stress" over making the team.
Greinke himself may never get to the point of being loose, but he suggested he has a chance to be a lot happier here than Kansas City, which isn't even a topic he wants to touch now.
"Eventually, I need to stop answering questions about that," he said about Kansas City before admitting that he wasn't sure he had it in him to refrain entirely. He seems to lack an editing valve, which is refreshing. But that trait might well have gotten him into trouble in New York.
He makes clear that he badly wants to win. Which is presumably why he rejected an opportunity to go to the Nationals, a team on the rise but probably at least a year away. Drew Storen, the Nationals' young closer, said he had been excited about the possibility of adding Greinke until realizing he'd probably be included in the package. In any case, Greinke rejected Washington before talks got too serious.
The Brewers are a serious contender now, with Greinke joining Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and another new acquisition Shaun Marcum to form a fearsome first four in a pitching rotation that finally stacks up to their fine everyday nucleus.
Greinke judged them as a contender, certainly when compared to Kansas City or Washington.
"Hopefully, we'll be winning," he said. "It's fun to win."