This story was written before Monday's Game 3 of the ALDS between the Astros and Rays. Zack Greinke started the game for Houston, and it didn't go well. The veteran right-hander lasted 3 2/3 innings, getting pulled after just 61 pitches. Greinke was charged with six runs on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in the Rays' 10-3 win.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Zack Greinke strolls into the room at Tropicana Field on Sunday wearing sneakers, gray jeans and a T-shirt reading, “October.” He’s getting ready to pitch, and he’s characteristically not one to dish. So there’s no reason to expect an oratorical masterpiece in this mundane, mandated appearance in front of the scribes and cameras on the workout day in advance of his start in Monday’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays.
Still, what no one in the room knows -- no one but Greinke, that is -- is that what will follow is, even by the unusually succinct standards of Donald Zachary Greinke, as precise a press conference performance as one will ever see on such a stage.
Greinke will use 67 words to answer eight questions. Nine of those words will be expended on saying “I don’t know” three times. From the moment he sits at the podium, it becomes clear that, for Greinke, this is a Marshawn Lynch-esque “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” formality. The man who has dealt with social anxiety disorder and rarely been one to let reporters into his magnificent baseball mind leans back in his chair, the microphone two to three feet from his face.
*In the original version of this story, it was reported, via the official transcript provided by the stenographer on hand, that Greinke had said only 43 words. Subsequent scrutiny of the video, with Greinke’s audio level amplified to hear him properly, uncovered 24 more words!
“Zack,” comes the first query, “it’s been a while since you’ve pitched. Can you take us through what you did to make sure you were ready and sharp for Game 3?”
“Just played catch every day,” Greinke responds. “Threw a sim game and a bullpen.”
We’re off and running. Performance art disguised as a press gathering.
“Zack,” the second question comes, “what was it like for you to watch the last two games against the Rays, specifically [Justin] Verlander and [Gerrit] Cole and just how the crowd's been and the crowd supporting Cole and kind of seeing what it's like for playoff baseball in Houston?”
Greinke pauses for a moment, lets the question sink in. He opens his mouth. Here it comes…
“It was nice,” he says. “A lot of excitement.”
Nice. Exciting. Next question?
“Zack,” asks a scribe, still trying to salvage something usable out of this exercise, “what do you think has made your transition to the Astros so seamless?”
“It’s just pitching,” the Astros’ prized Trade Deadline acquisition answers. “You just do what you do.”
Reporters keep doing what they do, earnestly running head-first into the brick wall that is Zack Greinke.
“What do you take away from watching the guys pitch in the first two games, even though you have different styles, just facing this team? Is there much you can take away, even though you do things differently than they do?”
Another pause. More contemplation. And then…
“I'm not sure about that,” Greinke says. “I haven't thought about it too much.”
Certainly, he’s bound to get back to that reporter once he’s given it more thought. Until then, next question …
“Zack,” a reporter asks, “what does it mean to be pitching …”
Greinke appears puzzled.
“What did you say?” Greinke says. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
This is hilarious because, A) we can’t hear him, and B) it’s not as if he’s going to answer the question, anyway. But sure, by all means, repeat the question, sir.
“What does it mean to you to be pitching in a potentially clinching situation?”
“I don't know,” Greinke says. “Just a normal game.”
Either out of determination, desperation or sheer fascination with this preposterous presser, the questions keep coming.
“Zack, what does it mean to you to be pitching close to home in Orlando and what challenges does this ballpark present?”
“I don't know,” says Greinke, a product of Apopka, Fla. "I don't know."
(Did you know Apopka is known as the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World”? Didn’t want you to live through this press conference without learning something.)
Finally, one more question. No, not a question. A demand. Talk, Zack. Talk!
“Talk,” says the reporter, “about the challenges that they bring, the Rays' hitters.”
Greinke gives it thought. Or pretends to, at least.
“They're good hitters,” he concludes, “good runners.”
“Um, all right,” says the moderator. “Anything else for Zack?”
With that, he is done. With that, he is gone. Zack Greinke, a man whose pitching career has been much longer in deed than in word returns to his preparation. A few minutes later, his manager, AJ Hinch, replaces him on the dais. Over the next 10 minutes or so, Hinch will field 11 questions and use exactly 2,069 words to answer them.
“Did I go longer than Greinke?” he asks afterward.