Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Q&A with Royals No. 1 starter Zack Greinke

OK everyone, sorry for the delay but I now have up the first of four interviews that I will post in the coming weeks. Right now my plan is to post one interview each week, on Wednesdays, for you guys to enjoy. That should take us into spring training when more news hits the airways.

Let me preface this Q&A session by pointing out that Greinke doesn't hold back anything when he speaks to the media. What I respect about the kid is that everything he says is 100 percent what he believes and isn't coached up or watered down words. Whether you agree with him or not is like comparing apples to oranges, but regardless he pretty much seems to hit the nail on the head. Also, Zack and his agent exchanged arbitration numbers on Tuesday. Zack is asking for $4.4 million and the Royals countered with $3.4. They will likely settle around the $3.9 mark.

Anyways, you've waited long enough and I thank you for that. I think he had some interesting things to say, and the comments about Japanese baseball did raise my eyebrows a bit. Here's a full transcript of what was said. I hope you enjoy!


Q: What was your approach on the mound last year?
GREINKE: "Just focus on every pitch. Not really take any game for granted or any outing. Just give 100 percent mentally and physically and hopefully it will work out like that again this year."

Q: I know you live in Orlando in the offseason, can you feel any of the excitement this year around this club, or in general with things in Kansas City, with the moves Dayton Moore has made and the things you guys have done the past couple of seasons?
GREINKE: "Last year we were excited too. We just thought we were going to do better than we did after we signed Jose Guillen. It didn't work out for us throughout the whole year, but at least at the end we kind of (finished) strong. And hopefully we will do it again.....
GREINKE: "Oh, the excitement? I remember the question now...(long pause)...actually I forgot it again..."

Q: That's alright. I know you live in Orlando in the offseason can you just talk about the fans and everything...
GREINKE: Oh yeah, yeah. Um, at the FanFest, that's when I really saw (the fan support). Not really so much on the caravan trips. At FanFest all of the players are there so you get a chance to talk to them and get their viewpoint on it. Then there's probably thousands of people at FanFest just there for us, and it seemed a little more exciting than last year. Last year I just felt is was kind of just something we were doing. This year I kind of felt the buzz a little bit."

Q: Can you talk about what it's like playing for Trey Hillman?
GREINKE: Um, he's kind of in between both our managers that I've had so far. I had Tony Pena and Buddy Bell. Tony was just like a big joking guy always having a good time and Buddy was more serious and real fiery. Trey is a real happy guy like Tony, but at the same time he has a mean streak to him. He's like a real honest guy to where if you're not doing good he'll let you know your sucking and you'll be sent down, or traded, or released or whatever if you don't start doing better. Just stuff like that. If your not executing on the bunts and hit and runs, or even the signs he'll get real mad at you and let you know that you've got to do better than that."

Q: Is there more of a sense, like with a comfortability, with him this year between the players and everything knowing that second time around he'll be more comfortable this year?
GREINKE: "Well, the season hasn't started yet, so you don't know for sure. I mean, I guess it's always tough the first year for managers, but he did fine. Last year it was his first year managing (in the big leagues) so he probably learned some things and he'll be better than last year."

Q: What about the division?
GREINKE: "I think (the offseason) has worked out nice for our team. It seems like the teams that were more talented last year haven't improved, and in some instances have got a little worse - on paper. Of course, that doesn't mean a whole lot. The Indians seemed to have improved. I mean, you never really know. The Twins are the same team they always are to where you don't think they are any good but they end up winning all the time. Our team has improved. In my honest opinion I think all five teams have an equal shot of winning (the division), and all five have an equal shot at being the worst team in the division when the season starts."

Q: With the Yankees spending all of that money is that going to turn into wins?
GREINKE: "Um, it will probably turn into some wins. You get better players you're going to win more games. But when the playoffs come it's just a five game series or a seven game series. The Royals, when we were as bad as we were, we swept the Yankees in a three game series. When the playoffs start I don't think it makes much of a difference. Because I thought the Angels and Boston were the two best teams last year and obviously that didn't work out. This year if the Yankees are the best team it still does not mean that you are going to win."

Q: Can you guys see yourselves being like a Tampa Bay team last year? Maybe a team nobody expects to win a lot, but then kind of comes out of nowhere and wins a lot of games?
GREINKE: "It could definitely happen. People say Tampa came out of nowhere. For like the past three years or whatever every spring training we're like, 'Maybe this is the year Tampa breaks out.' They have so much talent on that team and you knew it was going to happen. Last year it happened for them. They were so talented. If you watch baseball you couldn't argue with the talent they had. Our team has some of that young talent, but our whole team is not full of that talent. We have some older guys mixed in and we have a little bit less than what they had. But we also don't have to play Boston and New York 18 times."

Q: Did you guys as a pitching staff feel a little bit ripped off that Trey invited the infielders to play on the ranch this year and you guys got left out?
GREINKE: (Laughs) "Naw, we get to stay home and they've got to go work in the middle of the offseason. I'm glad we're allowed to do whatever we want now. But we have to go into spring training like seven days before we're even supposed to and the hitters are like another five days after that, so they're spending their time there, but we're going to be in spring training about 12 days early just by ourselves. So we end up having to make up for it."

Q: Does he use any of his Japanese experience with you guys?
GREINKE: "It's two completely different leagues. Not even close. Triple-A and the major leagues are way closer than Japanese, especially for a manager. The Japanese way doesn't work over in the United States and there's a reason for that. If it did we'd be doing things like the Japanese. That's not how we run baseball over here. Whenever he's tried to do that it hasn't worked real long because we're stubborn. We've been playing baseball the same way our whole careers and when something changes that quick it makes it tough."

Q: Talk about some of the additions to the team this year. Is Farnsworth more of an addition to the bullpen because of his pitching ability or because he's like an extra bodyguard out there in the bullpen? Isn't he?
GREINKE: (Laughs) Yeah. Our team's a pretty tough team this year. We've got Olivo who's a pretty tough guy, Farnsworth, Jose isn't afraid to go after people and I guess Crisp's dad used to be a professional boxer so now we've got four guys who mean business out there. Not too many teams will be excited to get in a beanball war with our team."

Q: Does it give the starters any more confidence to fling it inside more often?
GREINKE: (Laughing) Well, when Olivo's catching you don't have to worry about anything. You can hit 10 guys in a row and know no one is ever going to make it out to you because Olivo is looking forward to that. When a fight starts out he just want to protect the pitcher, number one. He enjoys letting you know that he has your back no matter what."

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