Most players find it annoying, if not upsetting, to be traded to a new team in the middle of a season. For a while, they're surrounded by strange faces and, often, are thousands of miles from their family and friends.
For Zack Greinke, a pitcher who has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, it had to be especially difficult. The trade that sent him from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Angels last July was his second trade, but the first in the middle of a season.
How did that work out?
"The first month was the worst I ever pitched in my life, I feel like," Greinke said Saturday. "One time, in 2005, my numbers were terrible, but I didn't pitch as bad as this. When the game was over, I couldn't believe how bad I was. It was crazy. Finally, it got better. It was definitely nice to get over that bad stretch."
It got better all right, beginning about a month after the trade, as he said. In his last eight starts, Greinke went 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA and 50 strikeouts, helping the Angels make a late playoff push. Half of those starts came against two playoff teams with big offenses, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.
The Dodgers' addition of Greinke, whom they signed to a seven-year, $147 million contract in December, might be the best reason for excitement heading into 2013. With a deep rotation topped by Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers figure to be a tough team to face virtually every series.
It's probably a good thing, then, that Greinke is planning to show up in Glendale, Ariz., well before pitchers and catchers are to report, Feb. 12. With Greinke, it seems, it's all about finding, or creating, a comfortable place to work.
"I can spend the first couple weeks trying to get more comfortable with everyone and then, by the end, you could completely focus on the pitching stuff and already know everyone pretty well," Greinke said.
He'll be shaking a lot of hands in those first two weeks. The only player Greinke knows on the Dodgers' roster is utility man Jerry Hairston Jr., a teammate on the Brewers. As a kid, Greinke spent a week on a traveling tournament team in Florida with Chad Billingsley.
"I thought he was a bit fat at the time," Greinke said. "Then, we asked the coach who had the best pitcher's body on the team and he said Billingsley. I was like, 'Are you serious?' That's where I learned it's not necessarily fat. It's a good, strong base."
He's charming his new co-workers already.