For Greinke, a 'joy' having his kids at ballpark

March 1st, 2021

admits he didn’t enjoy last season very much. He’s probably not alone in that feeling. The start-and-stop schedule necessitated by the spread of the coronavirus reduced the season to 60 games and left the players isolated in ways they could have never imagined.

Nearing the end of his career and with two young sons wanting to see their daddy pitch, the veteran Astros right-hander was separated from his family more than he wanted in 2020 and lamented that his kids didn’t get to be around the game. He’s hopeful that the protocols will be lessened this year as the COVID-19 numbers trend downward and he can have his sons following him around at the ballpark soon.

“The best part about being able to play still now is I can bring my kids to the field and watch games and work out with them in the clubhouse and stuff,” Greinke said. “Last year, families weren’t allowed to do anything really. It made it not as enjoyable. Hopefully, this year, they’re allowed to come and do some more stuff. It brings a lot of joy to me and other parents that have kids and they’re still in the Major Leagues. The kids think it’s the greatest thing. I hope I can do that this year.”

Perhaps that’s what’s driving Greinke to keep pitching at age 37. He’s entering the final year of his contract with the Astros, and he hinted on Monday that he’s got more in the tank. Greinke has transformed himself the past few years, with his velocity falling off and his craftiness on the rise. His fastball, which averaged 94 mph in 2008, sat at 87.9 last year. It’s about evolving and adapting.

Greinke made 12 starts in the regular season for the Astros last year and went 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA and ranked second among AL pitchers in fWAR (2.1). He walked only nine batters in 67 innings, becoming the second pitcher in history to post a walk rate below 4 percent (3.3) and a strikeout rate above 20 percent (24.5) at age 36 or older. (The first was Curt Schilling.)

“I’ve been able to stay healthy for a long time,” Greinke said. “I still feel really good. And I don't see it changing, but you never know, I guess, but I feel good. My body moves really good still, and I throw hard enough and the stuff’s good enough, and so I should be able to keep doing it as long as those things keep up.”

A World Series ring is the only thing missing from Greinke’s resume at this point. The winner of the 2009 Cy Young Award, he’s won six Gold Gloves, made six All-Star teams, won two ERA titles and was twice named a Silver Slugger. Greinke joked on Monday thay the one milestone he’s still chasing is 10 career homers and steals; he’s stuck at nine on each.

Greinke leads active pitchers with 459 career games started in the regular season. His 208 career wins in the regular season are second among active players to teammate Justin Verlander’s 226, and his 2,939 innings are second to Verlander’s 2,988. He ranks third among active players with 2,689 strikeouts, trailing Verlander (3,013) and Max Scherzer (2,784).

Greinke has made it clear that he hasn’t given retirement much thought yet, though his days as an ace workhorse pitcher are behind him now. So how much longer will he pitch?

“It all depends on how good I feel,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll pitch a lot longer still, but a lot of things come into play on whether you're allowed to pitch as long as you want to and stuff. The way the season was last year wasn't very fun, with all the craziness going on with what everyone, I guess, knows about -- all the stuff going on in the world. So hopefully it's better this year.”