Posted on March 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke has made just one official start this spring. However, after an exhibition against Team Mexico last week, Greinke was grilled by the media about the lack of velocity on his fastball, as he failed to hit 90 mph on the radar gun. Greinke brushed it off as unimportant at that point in the spring, and he continues to downplay the issue after showing minimal improvement in a B-game start on Monday, during which he hit 90 a few times but failed to maintain that kind of velocity over the course of 56 pitches.
After last week’s start against Team Mexico, Greinke admitted that he would have preferred his velocity to be higher than it was, especially after his average fastball velocity came in at a career-low last season. He said he was hoping to see a gradual uptick over the course of spring. However, his fastball velocity late in Monday’s start was between 86 and 88 mph, which does not show an improvement in arm strength three weeks from opening day. Afterward, Greinke declined to answer questions from the media about his velocity.
“I don’t know,” Greinke said when asked about the speed of his fastball. “I mean, the first time, it’s an interesting story. I’m not going to answer velocity questions every time the whole season. I mean, you’ve got to pick and choose your times you ask me about that.”
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In addition to Greinke, the Arizona coaching staff is also dismissing his lack of velocity as a non-issue at this point in the spring.
“To be honest with you, I think he’s right where he needs to be at this point in spring training,” said Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher. “Velocity comes. It’s not like you can manufacture it or make it any better this early. I think by the time we get to where we need to be, he’s going to be where he needs to be.”
To be fair, Greinke retired 14 straight batters at one point during Monday’s B-game start, although most of those hitters are low-level minor leaguers. He was able to locate his pitches and use his secondary stuff to retire hitters who were clearly overmatched, and that was good enough for Greinke.
“I don’t know how good it was, but the results were good,” Greinke said about Monday’s outing. “Each outing (in spring training) has gotten a little better, which is good. A lot of times I’ll take a step back and one of the outings just goes really bad, but so far it’s been better with each start.”
It’s a great sign that Greinke can still get batters out and be an effective pitcher without his usual fastball velocity. However, the Diamondbacks need the pitcher in the midst of a $206.5 million contract to be better than that; they need him to be a bonafide ace at the top of their rotation. Whether he can be the ace they thought they were signing with the kind of velocity he’s shown this spring remains to be seen.
After he posted a disappointing 4.37 ERA last season, there’s even more reason for the Diamodnbacks to be concerned about his lack of velocity this spring. Greinke and the Diamondbacks appear united in downplaying the issue, but until his velocity returns, questions will linger about whether Greinke is still capable of being the ace that Arizona needs (and is paying) him to be.