Greinke caps 'enjoyable season' as Royals' veteran ace

October 4th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Bobby Witt Jr. stole his 30th base of the season. Vinnie Pasquantino had the Royals dugout laughing with his “pure speed” that led to his first career stolen base. Drew Waters’ power surge continued with the game-winning three-run homer in extra innings, his third of this series.

The Royals rookies had their hands all over Monday’s 5-2 win in 10 innings over the Guardians at Progressive Field. But it was veteran starter Zack Greinke they all praised first.

“He’s played in the big leagues probably longer than all of us combined,” Waters said. “To be able to get a team win on his last start, I think it’s awesome. I’m happy we were able to do that.”

In his final start of 2022, his encore season with Kansas City after signing a one-year deal in Spring Training, Greinke delivered a quality start, allowing two runs (one earned) in six innings. He exited with a no-decision after Witt’s error in the sixth tied the game, but the bullpen’s four scoreless innings and Waters’ powerful swing ensured the Royals were still celebrating afterward.

“That was a fun game,” Greinke said.

Greinke finished his 18th Major League season with a 3.68 ERA across 26 starts and 137 innings. Will he return for a 19th season? He hasn’t decided yet, saying he doesn’t “really know for sure what’s going to happen” when he becomes a free agent this offseason.

But returning to the organization -- and city -- that drafted him No. 6 overall in 2001 left an impact in ‘22.

“I’ve enjoyed this season a lot,” Greinke said. “Love the guys here. We miss [former president of baseball operations] Dayton [Moore], not to make a big deal about that, but there’s a lot of good things here.

“I wouldn’t say there’s over-the-top amount of talent, but there’s a lot of talented players here. Lot of position players and pitchers. They’re great with my kids. They treat the family good. We like the city. A lot of good things in Kansas City.”

The Royals are interested in bringing back Greinke. He was a valuable signing, not only for his production but also for the example he set for the young rotation that surrounds him. The latter part is a big reason Greinke returned.

The Royals weren’t sure how much he would be available to help his young teammates beyond leading by example, but it quickly became clear.

“A lot of us early on, we were a little intimidated,” Jonathan Heasley said. “You didn’t know how much you were going to get out of him. But he opened up pretty quick and brought us in, which was pretty cool."

Greinke has endeared himself to a young and eager clubhouse with his uniqueness, bluntness and fantasy football trade proposals. Both hitters and pitchers have learned from him.

“Sitting in the dugout and having conversations, whether it’s about a lineup or how he thinks about our stuff personally, being able to have those with a guy who you know knows his stuff is really cool,” Heasley said. “Game-planning is something he’s helped me out with. To have those ideas and hear how he goes about his business, you can’t beat the experience.”

Nor can you beat Greinke’s feedback.

“One time, after my bullpen, he told me I should stop throwing my slider and work on it in the offseason,” Heasley said. “I was like, ‘All right.’ But then he went and watched it in some games, and he was like, ‘OK, it’s better than what I thought it was.’ He’s just awesome.”

The Royals are also paying close attention when Greinke is on the mound. On Monday, he pitched himself out of jams, mainly with weak contact -- and a key strikeout in the third inning, when Oscar Gonzalez swung through a 69.9 mph curveball with the bases loaded.

“If there’s anything these young pitchers need to watch and continue to ask questions about, it’s how he gets out of those high-leverage spots,” manager Mike Matheny said. “One, how he’s able to calm his heartbeat and two, how he stretches the plate when he needs to and when he has to attack.”

Vintage Greinke has appeared several times this season, with his slow, looping curveball and ability to keep hitters off balance with his mix and manipulation of pitches. Don’t forget about his Gold Glove defense, too; even at 38, he still has the quick reflexes, catching a 102 mph lineout back at his face on Monday night.

It sure seems like he could keep pitching if it’s what he and his family wants. And as much as he’s influenced the Royals this year, they’ve done the same to him.

“They just treated me really good here,” Greinke said. “I had fun for the most part this year. Didn’t win a ton of games, but personally, it was an enjoyable season.”