AP Baseball Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Zack Greinke threw for all of 10 minutes in his first bullpen of spring training, and those pitches provided plenty of positive vibes for everybody involved with Arizona watching the unassuming ace.
After an extensive warmup and stretching routine and some long toss in the outfield, the Diamondbacks’ new $206.5 million man tossed to catcher Welington Castillo on Friday under cloudy skies that provided cool, comfortable workout conditions.
“Very nice,” Castillo said on several pitches. Greinke didn’t say much aside from regularly shaking his head.
“It wasn’t perfect,” Greinke said, “but I didn’t expect it to be perfect.”
Hall of Famer Randy Johnson took in Greinke’s session from about 15 feet away along the back fence, while Arizona chief baseball officer Tony La Russa observed from a corner of the bullpen, seated in a golf cart. Manager Chip Hale, hands tucked into this waistband, viewed Greinke from another corner.
As far as his interactions with the Big Unit, Greinke said there have been just a few so far.
“He seems more normal than what you imagined when he was playing,” Greinke said. “I could be wrong.”
De Jon Watson, the D-backs’ senior vice president of baseball operations, who was in the room when the surprising Greinke deal developed, wore a smile.
“I just happened to be in the room,” he said, thinking back to early December. “He’s a good kid. We’re happy to have him.”
Watson is far from the only one. There were handshakes and pats on the back from nearly every coach in the vicinity as Greinke walked off the mound.
“Outstanding, Zack! Way to go, baby!” hollered D-backs super fan Susan Price from above the bullpen when Greinke and Castillo met in the middle for a handshake and short chat before switching stations.
The 32-year-old Greinke signed a six-year contract with Arizona, spurning NL West rivals Los Angeles and San Francisco with his decision. He dresses in the clubhouse next to reliever Tyler Clippard and infielder Jake Lamb.
Clippard gets a chuckle out of the fanfare surrounding Greinke but also understands the hype is well-deserved — even all the attention around the right-hander’s first formal throwing session of the spring.
“That’s kind of funny to me,” Clippard said. “It’s a bullpen. For us pitchers, it’s like going in and doing 30 sit-ups or something. It’s not a big deal. I guess it is in a sense, it’s important for us to get on the mound, get those reps and get prepared, and it is early in spring. We’ve thrown thousands of bullpens.”
Greinke and Clippard were throwing partners on Day 1 Thursday for pitchers and catchers at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, offering each other some general feedback along the way.
“It’s always fun seeing guys work, getting a feel for how their ball spins and what their ball does, especially a guy like that,” said Clippard, joining his third team in a year after spending 2015 with Oakland and the New York Mets.
Greinke, 19-3 with a majors-best 1.66 ERA last year, hardly expects to put up the same numbers pitching at Chase Field.
“I don’t know, probably not,” he said, smiling. “It’s not an easy park to pitch in.”
After all, Greinke remembers far too well surrendering 11 earned runs, three homers and 15 hits in his first outing there back on June 10, 2005, with Kansas City. The pitcher also hit a home run that day, but was done after 4 1-3 innings in a 12-11 Royals loss.
“He does not accept mediocrity. He appreciates good baseball,” Hale said. “He is cerebral. He’s actually said he really wants to be a mentor for some of our younger guys and help them along.”
Any former anxiety issues Greinke dealt with in the past seem to be of little concern to the D-backs brass.
“When Zack’s pitching, the anxiety is (on) the team that’s hitting against him. He’s got it under control,” La Russa said. “There’s nobody that’s a better No. 1 than our guy, so we’re looking forward to the anxiety being on the other side. It’s not going to be on our side.”
Chris Herrmann is eager to work with Greinke when his turn comes to catch him.
“I can’t wait. I see him on TV,” said Herrmann, in his first season with Arizona after four years in Minnesota. “He had a good year last year and I feel this year will be the same. It’s going to be fun to be a part of that. He seems like a quiet guy. He keeps to himself, and so do I.”
NOTES: RHP Daniel Hudson was away after coming down with the stomach flu. … Hale, in his second year as manager, said of having his 2017 contract option exercised: “Like anything else in baseball, it’s year to year. We know that from the time I started playing.”