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Greinke tries to pick up pace in prep for season

D-backs ace confident he'll feel good on the mound Opening Day
MLB.com @RichardJustice

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke is at that point again. His velocity is down, command off. One of spring's most enduring traditions is Greinke's feeling of dread as Opening Day approaches.

"Yeah, it happens every year," Greinke said. "But I mean every year I'm nervous that it might or might not come by the time it needs to."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke is at that point again. His velocity is down, command off. One of spring's most enduring traditions is Greinke's feeling of dread as Opening Day approaches.

"Yeah, it happens every year," Greinke said. "But I mean every year I'm nervous that it might or might not come by the time it needs to."

And?

"I've felt good by Opening Day every year," Greinke said. "That doesn't mean I did good on Opening Day or early in the year. Every year I felt ready throughout my entire career."

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Maybe, just maybe, that's why Greinke is one of the best pitchers of his generation. Skill, drive and a fear of failure are a potent mix.

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"That's usually what happens, too, is I'm so bad early on that I have to really, really pick up the pace," Greinke said. "This year, like I said, I tried to pick up the pace earlier.

"I tried to be ready faster this time, but it hasn't been the case. Hopefully it will. I'm putting in an effort to get it ready."

Greinke threw 50 pitches against mostly D-backs Minor Leaguers on Thursday afternoon on a back field at Salt River Fields. That outing was 4 2/3 innings, which was negotiable since he was afforded extra outs in the last two innings. Greinke allowed one run on six hits while striking out three. His fastball topped out at 87 mph, although most of them were closer to 84-86. Greinke was not happy with the first three innings and extremely happy with the fourth.

"Every year I get nervous that it's not working good enough and that it's not going to come fast enough," Greinke said. "Same thing this year. I think it's going to be ready, but in the back of my mind, I'm always a little nervous that it's not actually going to be there, be ready by the time the season starts."

Tweet from @Dbacks: Zack Greinke strikes out 3 over 4 innings in a #DbacksSpring intrasquad game. pic.twitter.com/xkGHmRUCuL

To call Greinke a perfectionist does not do the word justice. That's how he has strung together 14 seasons and a body of work that includes an American League Cy Young Award, four All-Star appearances, four Gold Glove Awards and two ERA titles.

"It could be anything," Greinke said. "I watch the ball come out of my hand, and I can see the ball go all the way to the glove, and I'm like, 'Man, that looks like the slowest pitch ever.'"

Video: MIL@ARI: Greinke tosses 1 2/3 frames against the Crew

Only it's not. Even if Greinke's velocity is off a tick, it creeps back up as the season progresses. He experienced the same thing last season.

"That's something I've done every year my whole career," he said. "When something is said about my velocity being low early in camp, that's 100 percent been the case every year I've ever pitched. Last year, I guess was a little lower, but it still was in line with the trajectory I gain velocity, usually.

"If the swing's all right, then it doesn't really matter too much. If it's fast enough, they have to respect my offspeed stuff, or respect it some, so it makes my offspeed good.

"If it's 85 [mph] and they still have to respect it, that's fine. But if it's 90 and they're not respecting it, then that's a problem. More important than the number is how they're reacting. Today, it's a [back-field] game against mainly Minor League guys, but I felt all right with the takes and the swings and some of the stuff. It wasn't as many swing and misses as I wanted sometimes, but it wasn't flawless. I wasn't getting swing and misses because I wasn't throwing good enough pitches to get swing and misses. I think, overall, it'll get better as camp goes on."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Zack Greinke