Greinke reflects on departure from Royals
Righty praises organization, fans but says views 'didn't mesh'
PHOENIX -- Zack Greinke, wearing a sweaty Milwaukee Brewers T-shirt and his blond hair in post-practice disarray, leaned back in a chair in a small office at Maryvale Baseball Park. He propped a foot on the desk top and talked amiably with five reporters.
Usually sparing in his time spent with the media, Greinke was giving four Milwaukee writers their first interview since Spring Training began. The pitcher seemed in no hurry and for more than a half-hour, Greinke dispensed answers in his typically candid and offbeat style.
Among other things, he confirmed that he "sort of" asked the Royals to trade him -- four times, in fact, starting with just before the Trade Deadline last July 31.
"I guess I kind of did right before the Trade Deadline last year because we were trading all our players," he said.
That was during the time that the Royals were busily dealing off Alberto Callaspo, Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. So Greinke suggested it might be time for him to move on as well.
"When I signed, I was led to believe we were building around the guys we had, and we were getting rid of all of them," he said. "So I sort of did then. Then at the end of the year, I sort of did again. And then during the offseason, I sort of did again. And then the media got the one where I think my agent must have said it somehow. ... So I guess I sort of did about four times."
The Royals accommodated Greinke on Dec. 19, when he and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt were shipped to the Brewers in exchange for four players.
Admittedly, Greinke was looking forward to being with a winning ballclub, something that he had not experienced in his seven years with the Royals.
"I don't know how to say it because Dayton [Moore, general manager] was good to me, the organization was really good to me and the fans have always been amazing," Greinke said. "But it seemed like we were always going in different directions.
"I know young guys are very valuable, but it comes to the point where it has to take the next step, and Kansas City is in a tough situation because their young guys coming up, even before trading me and before trading [David] DeJesus and even before trading all the guys last year, [made KC] probably the No. 1 prospect organization in all of baseball. And when your prospects are that young, it's hard to ignore it, and so they had to almost go with that approach. ... But it just didn't mesh with where I wanted to be."
So now he's in the Brewers' camp with a club that's supposed to be a serious contender in the National League Central.
"It's just more relaxed here," Greinke, 27, said. "There are a lot more younger guys in Kansas City's camp, so it's a lot more drills, teaching people stuff that the older people in this camp have already been through, so maybe that's why it's a little simpler. It's a bunch of guys who are in their prime, and Kansas City is young again, so I'm staying with my age group."
Greinke reaffirmed his comments to MLB.com late last season that he'd lost some motivation after his sensational American League Cy Young Award-winning season of 2009. His record slipped from 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA to 10-14 and 4.17.
When Greinke realized that the Royals were looking toward the more distant future with young players, he lost some focus.
"It takes a lot out of you," he said. "I had to kind of re-prioritize stuff and take care of stuff other than baseball a little bit, which everyone has to do, but I didn't focus. When the games started, I pitched 100 percent every time, but [preparing for games], I probably did what most people do. I feel like I do a lot more than most people in between starts and the second half I just kind of felt like I did what was asked and nothing more than that."
Greinke also realized last season that he needed to adjust the medication that he used to control the social anxiety disorder that caused him to leave the Royals during Spring Training 2006.
"I just upped my dosage some, which is just normal, but with all medicines, it's kind of crazy because it makes me tired to take it," he said. "But if I don't take it, I get really worked up. The higher the dosage, the more tired I get, but I guess I sort of get used to it. Nothing's perfect."
Greinke tried to switch his meds for about a week last season without success.
"It does not work good at all," he said. "No matter how good or bad things go, I can't adjust in the middle of a season."
He's somewhat surprised that he's still in baseball at all. When he left the Royals' camp on Feb. 26, 2006, he had no intention of returning.
"I was done playing," he said.
But after a visit to a psychologist and going on medication, Greinke was back by April 17 to begin a comeback.
"When I left, I'd have said there was maybe a 10 percent chance I'd come back, especially not that fast," he said.
There was a long road back, with a Cy Young trophy and now a new team along the way. And, yes, he's in the NL now and gets to indulge his passion for swinging a bat.
Greinke was asked if he'd likely hit over or under .250.
"Under, but I'm going to hit a bunch of doubles and home runs," he said. "That's the plan, but I'm going to swing hard."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.