WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros manager Dusty Baker said veteran pitcher Zack Greinke won’t report to camp until Feb. 22 -- more than a week after the pitchers and catchers report date. Baker said Greinke is healthy and working out on his own but didn’t offer up a reason for the tardiness.
“Other than he’s Zack Greinke,” Baker said. “I’ve got no problem with that.”
Greinke, traded to the Astros from the D-backs in July, is coming off a vintage 2019 campaign in which he went 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, winning eight of his 10 starts after arriving to Houston. Greinke carried a shutout into the seventh inning in Game 7 of the World Series before the Nationals rallied to win the title.
Greinke has also famously taken his time building up his velocity, generating headlines in February and March with mid-80s readings on the radar guns before going on to submit typically excellent regular-season performances. So, in some respects, he’s likely earned the right to start the year at his own pace.
The Astros will lean a little more heavily on Greinke this year after the departure of Gerrit Cole via free agency. Greinke and Justin Verlander will headline Houston’s rotation, with Lance McCullers Jr., Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, Josh James, newcomer Austin Pruitt and top prospect Forrest Whitley expected to compete for the remaining spots.
Baker has high praise for Altuve
As Dusty Baker gets to know his new roster with the Astros only a couple of weeks after being hired, he admits he’s still learning names. One name he didn’t need to learn was All-Star second baseman José Altuve, whom Baker has admired for years.
“José Altuve, that’s Mighty Mouse,” he said. “He’s a bad little dude. He’s one of the best players, I think, that I’ve ever seen. I was talking to him yesterday. I always wanted to win a batting title as a player. I came in third a couple of times and this dude has three batting titles.”
Baker, who had 1,981 hits in his 19-year career, finished third in the National League batting race in 1972 (behind Billy Williams and Ralph Garr) and 1981 (behind Bill Madlock and Pete Rose). Altuve has won three batting titles, and Baker said that’s hard for a right-hander to do.
“I think of Bill Madlock, I think of Edgar Martinez, Manny Ramirez,” he said. “These guys are primo right-handed hitters. This guy defied all odds. They told him he was too little. Like a lot of us, they tell people what they can’t do versus what you can do.”
Bagwell, Biggio expected at Spring Training
Astros Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are expected to be in camp at some point this spring as guest instructors like they’ve done in years past. Baker said it’s important for the legends of the game to spend some time around the players during Spring Training.
“I was spoiled with the Dodgers and the Giants,” said Baker, referring to his tenure as a player with the Dodgers (1976-83) and Giants (1984) and manager of the Giants (1993-2002). “Imagine rubbing shoulders and talking to Sandy Koufax and Maury Wills and Duke Snider and Tommy Davis and all the guys. Roy Campanella was around and helping Mike Scioscia, even from his wheelchair.
“When I got to the Giants, to have big Willie McCovey and [Orlando] Cepeda and [Willie] Mays and all these greats. They certainly could teach something and if they could teach you one thing that could put your brain in motion and create your own thoughts, you could reach heights you could never reach before.”
Odds and ends
Right-hander Justin Verlander -- the 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner -- didn’t throw in the bullpen Friday as originally scheduled. The team said Verlander threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday and wanted some more rest before getting back on the mound.