OAKLAND -- On the day he was placed on the injured list with a sore neck, veteran right-hander Zack Greinke opened up about his future in baseball, his role on the Astros and his desire to return to Houston next year in a rare in-person interview at the Coliseum on Friday.
Greinke, who had been scheduled to start the series opener game against the A’s, said his neck began hurting him Wednesday and worsened Thursday while the Astros were finishing up a series in Anaheim. He said the pain in his neck prevented him from throwing or running, but he’s not sure how long he’ll be out.
“I’m not positive on that,” he said. “Hopefully not too long.”
Brandon Bielak started Friday’s game in Greinke’s place, while right-hander Peter Solomon was called up from Triple-A Sugar Land to take Greinke's spot on the roster.
Greinke’s last start came Sept. 17, when he allowed five runs in four innings against the D-backs. He spent 10 days on the COVID-19 IL earlier this month and had made two starts since returning. Greinke is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA in his last three starts, allowing 18 earned runs and five homers in 13 innings.
“It’s been kind of a mess since all that,” he said. “The important thing now is the season for me is closer to over. Just trying to get ready for the playoffs and hopefully help the team out there as much as possible.”
Because he hasn’t pitched very much in the last month and had a series of tough outings when he did, Greinke’s spot on the Astros' postseason rotation is tenuous. The veteran knows that, acknowledging that he might have to settle for a lesser role, which could possibly mean pitching in relief in October.
“You kind of have to limit expectations of how much I can pitch in the near future,” he said. “Luckily, we’ve got a lot of good pitchers on our team. I might still be able to help in a smaller fashion, but still be just as valuable, hopefully.”
Since throwing 92 pitches in six innings on Aug. 23 against the Royals, Greinke has thrown 76, 75 and 68 pitches in that trio of difficult starts.
“I haven’t done real good the last three outings,” he said. “There’s been a lot of injured list time in between that. It will be pretty tough to be able to throw 100 pitches any time soon, I would think, with how the last month has gone. But we’ll see.”
Greinke said he would be fine in any role he’s asked to be in during the playoffs.
“Whatever they ask of me will be the goal,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can to be ready to do that. Our team’s good. We’ll do our best to go as far as we can. That’s the goal, do everything that I can and hopefully win games.”
As far as his future, the 37-year-old is a free agent at season’s end and said he “definitely” wants to play next year. As for returning to the Astros, he deemed that “a possibility.” His teammates dressed up as him when they left Houston for Anaheim earlier this week, a nod to how well he’s respected in the clubhouse.
“You know, I’ve liked it a lot more this year than years past,” he said. “Last year was just a mess with everything that was going on in the world. That baseball season was just different and it’s hard to explain. You try to just not really think about last year too much with baseball. This year has been a lot of fun. A great group of guys here -- up there with the best group of guys I’ve ever played with and a great group of baseball players on top of it.”