MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke's competitive zest got the best of him. Greinke's foolish hoops injury is a big blow to the Brewers, the small-market team that's going all in this year but just suffered a decent-sized setback thanks to its newest star.
Greinke will likely miss his first few starts of the season, as explained by Brewers team doctor William Raasch, who discovered a hairline fracture on one of two injured ribs on Greinke, who admitted later that basketball was a bad idea that won't be repeated by him. Until Tuesday, when the seriousness of Greinke's injury was revealed, he was telling writers only that he had done something "stupid'' to injure his side and that it was "off the field.''
Now we learn it was on the court, no surprise to those who know about Greinke's off-the-charts lust for competition. According to him, he suffered the injury after falling while going up for a rebound. The timing suggests it happened after reporting to Brewers camp.
"I've been doing this for a couple years now, and people are always saying, 'You're going to get hurt.' It finally caught up to me,'' Greinke said. "I was hoping it was just bruised, but I guess it's worse than that. So I guess I have to stop playing basketball now. I had a lot of fun while I was doing it, but it wasn't worth it.''
Greinke's remarks show some maturity, but his actions amounted to a childish mistake with adult repercussions. He spent a winter expressing his frustration over the Royals' failure to win, and now he has started off as a Brewer by doing something that has hurt their chances to do the same.
His short stay with the Brewers so far has revealed a side that is almost childlike. It's a plus to be competitive, but he overdoes it to the point where it can become a detriment. It doesn't make any sense to be playing another sport, and a contact sport no less, once spring training has begun. And you just know he doesn't play it casually.
How much does he hate to lose? During the winter he was telling friends that he was so upset about still being a Royal that he might not even report to spring training this year before he was saved by the Brewers, who traded four talented kids to the Royals for him and middling shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.
Greinke's eyes were downcast all day, and he was stonily silent, which isn't necessarily all that unusual for him. But it was perhaps a bit more stark this time. His silence was broken when he met with the media to discuss his mishap and admit his poor judgment. Others had to answer about his mistake, too.
"Unfortunately Zack got hurt, but we've got four other guys to pick up the slack,'' Prince Fielder said, hopefully.
The Brewers entered spring with vastly greater confidence after rebuilding their rotation by landing Greinke, an ace, plus strong middle-of-the-order pitcher Shaun Marcum, seemingly transforming them from a team that seemed destined to waste its fine young offensive nucleus to become a prime contender in the National League Central. But this is a major blow. The injury is said to require "four to six weeks'' of rest, although Raasch said the clock started when the injury occurred about two weeks ago. Even so, extra time will be needed to get into throwing shape, causing initial estimates to be two to three starts missed for the Brewers' new star.
"If it were the playoffs, he'd be throwing with it,'' Raasch opined.
Perhaps, but he wasn't throwing especially well early in camp -- he started two games in the Cactus League, looking so-so, before an MRI revealed the true damage -- likely due to his hurt rib cage.
Greinke was suitably sorry for his error. But he has cost the small-market team badly that has shown so much faith in him by sending the Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (who is wowing the scouts in the Cactus League), shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. The Royals are the talk of the league out here for all their superb young prospects, and Cain is mentioned prominently among first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and many others. However, the Brewers are hoping to be the ones to make the impact once the season starts, and Greinke has lowered early expectations with his foolishness.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio committed $13.5 million a year to Greinke, raising the Brewers payroll to unprecedented heights in what is very likely the last year in Milwaukee for Fielder, who is a free agent after the year. Greinke is supposed to be a big part of this season. His first couple missteps were relatively minor. First, he told a Wisconsin audience at a Brewers Fanfest he believed the Steelers would win the Super Bowl, which is something you just can not say comfortably in Packer territory. He is honest to a fault, and this was his bad. Diplomacy isn't his bag, but he needs to acquire an editing valve of some sort.
Then, shortly after arriving in camp he had a long interview with Brewers writers in which he suggested that injuries were a waste of time and that teammates, while having the potential to be annoying, hadn't annoyed him as of yet.
Now he has done more than annoy teammates, he has hurt them with his foolish actions. He was appropriately unhappy about this turn of events. But that doesn't make amends for a mistake that is costing his new team.