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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Greinke is a study in brutal honesty

By Mark Saxon

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke spoke slowly, carefully, painstakingly.

He didn't take the easy way out by lazily insisting his words were taken out of context. In fact, he said the characterization of his remarks was fair.

Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke threw just four pitches before leaving his spring training debut.
Nor did he retract his comments about having "zero excitement" for pitching in Sydney, Australia, where the Los Angeles Dodgers open the regular-season against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22-23.

He didn't apologize to anyone in Australia, though high-ranking members of the Dodgers' front office urged him to take a step back. He was against going Down Under all along, he admits, even volunteered he voted "no" when Dodgers players had their say.

Of course, what some outraged people in Australia might want to acknowledge is those comments had nothing to do with their country. Who has anything against Australia? It had everything to do with traveling 17 time zones away, being forced to get ready after four Cactus League starts and then having an eight-day layoff before resuming his season.

Greinke stands an ice cube's chance in the Outback of pitching in Australia after he exited the Dodgers' second spring training game because of a strained right calf. But the entire uproar gave a pretty revealing glimpse into one of the frankest, most routine-oriented players in the major leagues.

"I've never been really big on what peoples' perceptions are of me," Greinke said, stating what appears obvious. "The only goal is to try to win as many games as possible this year and not really take two games for granted, not taking one game for granted, not taking the first month for granted, not taking the season for granted."

Those two Australia games carry as much weight as any other regular-season game, but the Dodgers are probably wise to pull Greinke from them if he's not comfortable ramping up his season that way. Truth be told, no Dodgers starting pitcher is particularly keen on having to rush to get ready that soon, but Greinke and Clayton Kershaw represent a bigger chunk of the Dodgers' future than any two other starters, specifically $362 million of the team's future commitments.

When in doubt, the Dodgers are probably going to lean toward keeping those two guys happy.

The Dodgers knew what -- and whom -- they were getting when they signed Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract two Decembers ago. They were blindsided when he made the comments -- which prompted a series of editorials in Australian newspapers -- but they weren't surprised.

"I guess my comments ... I didn't realize this at the time, but they created quite a stir over there," Greinke said with a wry smile.

If they didn't know, they hadn't done their research. All it would have taken is a Google search that included the words, "Greinke," "brutal" and "honesty." Joe Posnanski, a former columnist for the Kansas City Star, reported an incident from Greinke's early days in the game. Teammate Jeremy Affeldt had given up a home run and he stormed into the dugout, muttering, "That wasn't even that bad of a pitch."

"Actually," Greinke told him, "it was a pretty bad pitch."

Everyone seems to have a Greinke story. There was the one about the tough September loss in Cincinnati. Greinke pitched, the Dodgers lost by a run and, while the rest of the team stormed into the clubhouse, Greinke proposed a fantasy-football trade to a clubhouse attendant.

He once told A.J. Ellis that, if he were the Dodgers' general manager, he would trade Ellis and sign Brian McCann.

Manager Don Mattingly bumped into him in the clubhouse just the other day and Greinke started grilling him about his decisions during last September's pennant race. Why did he give the everyday players so many days off?

"He's going to ask questions," Mattingly said, adding that Greinke is one of his lowest-maintenance players.

He's also going to take his stands.