Cy puts Greinke in spotlight (cont.)
Greinke provided many such moments this season, though they usually came with him on the mound rather than in the dugout. Nine times this season he pitched eight or more innings without allowing more than two runs. In back-to-back starts in late August, he struck out 15 Indians one game and came back five days later with a one-hit shutout against the Mariners. He quickly became the Royals' most beloved player. After his last home start of the year, a win over the pennant-chasing Twins on Sept. 27, Hillman asked Greinke if he would like to go out to the mound as if he would start the eighth inning so that he could be removed to the thunderous ovation he so richly deserved. True to his humble nature, he refused. "He was not for that at all," said Hillman.
By then Greinke's season was already being touted as Cy-worthy, yet it was all the more surprising because of the way he was pounded in spring training, when he posted a 9.21 ERA while trying to develop his changeup. By the end of the year, it had been modified and become effective enough that it could complement his biting slider,a curve that he can throw as slow as 50-60 mph and a mid-90s fastball. "Slider's always been easy for me to throw, curve is easy for me to throw, but changeup I just haven't had a feel for it. Slider I know I could go out today and throw a good slider and I haven't thrown in two months."
In fact, Greinke hasn't done much of anything baseball-related since the season ended. He is open about his lack of enthusiasm for working out, but he already knows that in about a month's time, he will need to start ramping up his workout schedule to six days a week to prepare for another season. "That's the fun part, you do whatever you can to try to get ready to see if your game plan works," says Greinke. "Everything's fun -- it's fun facing the hitters and challenging them [saying], 'I dare you to beat me.' Watching the game isn't near as interesting but playing the game, you're watching every single detail. There's just so many things that are fun about the game."
Indeed, life is a lot of fun for Greinke right now, and for all the ways in which he is the same as ever, even he can appreciate how different that is. "It's an uphill battle from where I was at," he says. "If you're not completely focused on what's ahead you won't be able to succeed. That's what gives me pleasure is giving your all to something and being able to succeed. It's a lot better when you're 100 percent focused for it.
"I worked my whole life to do good in baseball, mostly in hitting, pitching I was doing good, good, good, but then you hit a rough spot and get back to the bottom so fast you realize you can't take anything for granted. It definitely wasn't easy to get back to doing good but it's kind of a challenge. It's nice when you get to the top."
Greinke is, at last, at the top of his profession, and for a little while at least he'll be able to savor it, as well as his privacy. When he goes to Hawaii on his honeymoon next week, he's taking his new bride, his well-deserved status as the best pitcher in the American League, and leaving beyond his cellphone. The attention will have to wait.
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