WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When we last saw Zack Greinke, he was walking off the mound at Minute Maid Park to a standing ovation after pitching a gem in Game 7 of the World Series -- a game the Astros eventually lost to the Nationals. Little has gone right for the Astros since.
Since losing the World Series, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were fired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal that dominated the offseason. Greinke, who joined the Astros in a mid-season trade from the D-backs, reported to camp Saturday on what he said was the final day pitchers were allowed to show up. The rest of the pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 13.
“This is the mandatory reporting date,” said Greinke, who lives in Orlando and had been throwing bullpens at Rollins College. “Instead of showing up for voluntary reporting date, I came at mandatory time. That’s how I understand it at least.”
The Astros are Greinke’s sixth team in his 16-year career, and this is the first time he’s had Spring Training in Florida. Greinke said if he would have known about the mandatory report date, he would have reported late to spring camp throughout his career.
“I just found out we don’t have to come these other days,” he said. “If I would have known that 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have been coming for a while now.”
Greinke went 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 33 starts in 2019 with Houston and Arizona, going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts with the Astros. When asked what’s driving him at 36 years old, Greinke said he has two more years on his contract. Asked what he wants to improve this year, he said his slider.
“It could get better,” he said. “More importantly, just trying to keep the other pitches as good as they were the last couple of years and not them get worse. If the slider can get better at the same time, it would be nice, but it’s probably not going to happen.”
Greinke wouldn’t discuss the findings of an MLB report released Jan. 13 that determined the Astros used cameras to illegally steal opponents’ signs during the 2017 season -- the year they won the World Series -- and part of the ’18 season. Greinke threw 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Astros in 2017 while with Arizona. He also faced them in May 2018, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings.
When asked if the results of the report changed the views of his teammates, Greinke declined to comment. He was asked whether he suspected the Astros were stealing signs, and said: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Greinke’s Game 7 performance in the Fall Classic was on track to be one of the legendary big-game performances in recent history. He carried a shutout into the seventh inning, allowing only two baserunners, before giving up a one-out homer to Anthony Rendon and walking Juan Soto. Hinch pulled him in favor of Will Harris, who gave up a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick.
“I was pitching really good,” Greinke said. “Let two guys get on base. It’s just kind of how I was being used ever since I got to the team. I just pitched my five, six innings and let the bullpen do the rest. It’s kind of how I was being used. It was kind of expected.”
Lefty Framber Valdez, who’s competing with Austin Pruitt and Josh James for the final bullpen spot, will make his first start of the spring when the Astros meet a split-squad Nationals team at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Astros manager Dusty Baker said he expects a few of the Astros regular position players to get their first action of the spring. Among those scheduled to pitch are Andre Scrubb, Kent Emanuel, Ralph Garza and Blake Taylor.