Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Two days later than originally planned, Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke will make his season debut Saturday against a Colorado team that he knows well.
Since moving to the National League in 2011, Greinke has made 24 regular-season starts, and one in the postseason, against the Rockies. That's more than any other opponent in that span.
Greinke will oppose Colorado right-hander German Marquez, one of the cadre of young starters who took a large step forward under first-year manager Bud Black a year ago.
The Diamondbacks are looking to sweep the three-game series and start 3-0 for the first time since winning their first four games in 2012. Colorado has lost its first three only once, in 1994, in the Rockies' second year of existence.
Early in spring training, Greinke was named to start the season opener Thursday, but he was pushed back because of a groin strain in mid-March that forced a slight change of plans.
As has been the case the past several springs, questions about Greinke's velocity popped up this March when his fastball was registering 86-87 mph in early outings. Arizona manager Torey Lovullo knows to take those readings with a grain of salt.
"I've always maintained that Zack knows exactly what he wants to get done and where he needs to be day by day, and we never want to force him to get out of the comfort zone he's created," Lovullo said.
"I respect everything that he does and the process that he follows, so much so that I allow him to kind of dictate his pace. I know that throws everybody off, but it seems to work. I know he's logged a lot of innings and the wear and tear on his body year after year takes a little time to recuperate. I know that he has a process, when he gets on the mound he is going to have the velocity that he wants. I know that happened last year, and that might happen this year."
Greinke is coming off a 17-7 season in his second year in Arizona, with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 32 regular-season starts. That tied for the second-most victories in his 13-year major league career.
Greinke has won 19, 17, 13 and 17 games the last four years, the first two with the Dodgers, although his fastball velocity has dipped microscopically every year. He averaged a career-low 90.0 mph last season, according to FanGraphs.com. He was at 91.9 mph in his second season with the Dodgers in 2014.
Personal catcher Jeff Mathis will handle Greinke, a pairing that worked well a year ago. Greinke was 13-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 18 starts at Chase Field in 2017.
Marquez was one of three Rockies rookie starters to win at least 10 games last season, going 11-7 with a 4.39 ERA while setting staff highs with 29 starts and 162 innings. Kyle Freeland won 11 and Antonio Senzatela won 10.
Senzatela spent the last two months in the bullpen, in part to keep his innings down, and has started this season as a reliever also.
Freeland, 24, is the oldest of the group.
"The next step is to make some adjustments," Black said of his young group. "We saw what happened in the second half with some of them. They are not a secret anymore. They've done some things this offseason and in spring training that will help them adjust back to the league adjustment to them."
Growth now is measured in the grasp of the finer points, and the group was able to concentrate on those things this spring instead of pitching to make the team.
"It's more fundamental pitching principle stuff that they have to be aware of, not just stuff, not just velocity and movement," Black said. "It's about changing speeds, pitch sequencing.
"I'm in on these guys. They have to keep growing, but I suspect these guys will go out there every night and give us a chance to win."