For a player who has dealt with anxiety issues, Zack Greinke is facing what may be one of the most high-pressure days of his career.
It's his first meaningful game since signing one of the richest pitching contracts in history, and his first with one of baseball's most storied franchises. Plus, Greinke is trying to show his new home fans that a recent elbow issue is no longer a problem as the Los Angeles Dodgers face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Social anxiety disorder plagued Greinke early in his Kansas City Royals tenure, but he overcame it to win the 2009 AL Cy Young Award and was among the most sought-after free agents this winter. He said upon entering his first Dodgers camp in February that the condition is firmly under control.
"I don't think about it at all. I don't get stressed by it," said Greinke, who joined Los Angeles with a six-year deal worth $147 million. "It's just something that was a problem before, but it isn't now. I'm sure it could be somewhere in the future, but it's not anything that affects me."
The right-hander went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA last season, performing as well with the Los Angeles Angels during the playoff chase as he did with Milwaukee during the first half of 2012 before getting traded. Greinke went 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his final eight starts.
Elbow soreness kept him out of exhibition games for three-plus weeks in March, though his final spring outing was a good one. He threw five innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts against the Angels on Saturday.
"I still don't know how it's going to react," Greinke told the Dodgers' official website. "It should be fine. But I guess it could happen again. I don't know. I can't predict the future."
Greinke defeated his current team in his only start at Dodger Stadium, allowing a run in six innings of a 2-1 Brewers win May 31. He faced Pittsburgh five times during his 1 1/2 seasons with Milwaukee and usually struggled, posting a 6.30 ERA, but he did go 3-1.
Los Angeles got a shutout from Clayton Kershaw to open the season but has since seen Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett lose to San Francisco. That duo gave up all eight runs but only four were earned as the Dodgers committed four errors.
First up is Sanchez, coming off the worst of his seven big-league seasons. The left-hander went 1-9 with an 8.07 ERA in 15 starts for Kansas City and Colorado.
Sanchez was told he made the Pirates rotation last week even though he gave up 11 runs, 18 hits and 10 walks in 18 innings during spring training. The former Giant is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in his past four starts versus the Dodgers, though he hasn't faced them since April 2011.
He's hoping the Pirates' bats wake up after totaling six runs and 13 hits in their season-opening series as the Cubs took two of three.
"Once our offense gets rolling, we're going to be tough to beat," said Russell Martin , 0 for 10 in his first three games with Pittsburgh.
Clint Barmes ' two doubles account for half of the Pirates' extra-base hits - they have yet to homer - and he's 7 for 11 against Greinke.
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||3||.000||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||16||.125||2||0||2||3||4||.263||.451||.188|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
|March 22, 2013||Francisco Liriano||15-Day DL||Fractured right forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Charlie Morton||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Jeff Karstens||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|March 20, 2013||Chase d'Arnaud||60-Day DL||Left thumb surgery|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|March 28, 2013||Ted Lilly||15-Day DL||Left shoulder labrum surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Chad Billingsley||15-Day DL||Right index finger contusion|
|March 22, 2013||Scott Elbert||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||15-Day DL||Torn ligament, right thumb|
|March 21, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, right thumb|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Not too bad, as far as first impressions go.
Zack Greinke pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning of his splendid Dodgers debut, leading Los Angeles to a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Andre Ethier homered and Los Angeles got RBI doubles from Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez . Greinke, who signed a $147 million, six-year contract to join the Dodgers during the offseason, struck out six and did not walk a batter in 6 1-3 innings.
"First impressions are important," Greinke said. "But I'm just trying to get one out at a time. No matter who it is, they're the most important batter at the moment. That's kind of what I do, and hopefully everything takes care of itself."
Before the game, even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he hadn't seen Greinke much.
The right-hander was on a limited pitch count after throwing only 13 innings during spring training, but he made his 92 pitches count Friday and showed why he was in such high demand last winter.
"He was able to spot the fastball, threw the cutter, threw the two-seamer, four-seamer, the velocity was firm, and his slider was a good pitch," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He threw two or three 3-2 breaking balls to keep you off the fastball. A handful of breaking balls that are 72-74 mph.
"It was a tremendous show of control, and controlling bat speed. All those three-ball counts, (but) we couldn't push him over the edge."
Greinke yielded just a two-out single to Garrett Jones in the second inning and a one-out single to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh.
The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner said his first start for a new team didn't bring any added pressure, and he just did what he normally does.
"I think it's rare to have that kind of touch with his breaking stuff. He was pretty amazing, really," Mattingly said. "He was like Felix (Hernandez). I've seen both those guys pitch when they were 19 and both of them had great command early, and great touch with their off-speed stuff early, and you don't see that."
Besides Greinke getting his first victory in his first Dodgers start, there were other firsts for Los Angeles. Ethier hit his first home run of the year, Kemp got his first hit and Gonzalez had his first RBI.
For Kemp, his RBI double in the sixth off Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez (0-1) not only increased the lead to 2-0, it also ended an 0-for-12 start to the season.
"I'm excited about that one," Kemp said. "There's more to come though, there's more to come."
Immediately after Kemp's double, Gonzalez doubled into the right-field corner to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead and knock Sanchez out of the game.
Greinke (1-0) began his Dodgers career by retiring the first five batters he faced. With two outs in the second, he gave up a hard one-hopper by Jones that second baseman Mark Ellis couldn't handle. The play was ruled a hit.
Greinke responded by setting down the next 14 hitters until McCutchen lined a single to center in the seventh. Mattingly swiftly made his way to the mound to take the ball from Greinke, who missed a couple of spring starts because of inflammation in his elbow and the flu.
"That's as far as he's been," Mattingly said. "We wanted him to be below 100 (pitches). That was a fairly long inning there when we scored and you could tell he wasn't quite as sharp."
Greinke got some help from his defense, particularly shortstop Justin Sellers in the fifth. Sellers robbed Jones of a hit with a diving, backhand stab of a sharp grounder, bouncing up and throwing to first.
Brandon League pitched the ninth for his first save of the season, completing the two-hitter.
Sanchez was no stranger to the Dodgers, pitching against them for the 18th time in his career. All 17 previous appearances came with the Giants.
Like Greinke, Sanchez retired his first five hitters. But the sixth batter in the lineup, Ethier, drove a 2-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers.
Los Angeles broke through again in the sixth. After Mark Ellis ' leadoff walk, Kemp and Gonzalez had back-to-back doubles to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, ending the night for Sanchez. He went five-plus innings, allowing three runs and six hits.
After Greinke came out in the seventh, Paco Rodriguez , Kenley Jansen and League combined to hold the Pirates hitless for the final 2 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley (bruised finger) made his last rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday and is slated to come off the disabled list and start next Wednesday in San Diego. Billingsley missed the final five weeks of the 2012 season with an injured elbow. ... Pirates catcher Russell Martin returned to Dodger Stadium for the first time since playing his final game with Los Angeles on Aug. 3, 2010. Martin, who spent the past two years with the Yankees after the Dodgers let him go following the 2010 season, received mostly boos from the crowd when he came to bat in the second inning. ... The Pirates went homerless for the fourth game in a row and remained the only National League team without a home run this season.