Greinke reflects on falloff from Cy Young season

Greinke reflects on falloff from Cy Young season

KANSAS CITY -- Zack Greinke believes he wasn't able to repeat his Cy Young Award season because, in the afterglow of that success, he lost some of his motivation.

Greinke also conceded that he felt a bit burned out at one point of the season, that he had minor problems with his social anxiety disorder and that lack of improvement in pitching was the primary cause of the Royals' lackluster season.

After Monday's 7-5 loss to the Tigers, Greinke is 9-13 with a 4.00 ERA -- a far cry from the 16-8 and 2.16 figures that made him the top American League pitcher of 2009.

In an interview with MLB.com, he was asked if he was satisfied with his 2010 season.

"When I'm looking back at it right now, it definitely could've been better," he said. "It's hard for me to complain about being healthy for the whole season and throwing over 200 innings because the plan going in is to just to be healthy and throw a lot of innings. The other stuff takes care of itself. But it definitely would be nice to win more games and be a little bit more effective. But I'm pretty happy overall."

There's little doubt that Greinke, with a bit more offensive support, could've been a 20-game winner last year. Even so, with 242 strikeouts and a set of statistics that reflected a dominating presence, it could be argued he had the best pitching season in Royals history.

The nation's baseball writers picked him as the AL Cy Young winner although other pitchers had more wins. He was the best.

"Something I think I have a problem with," Greinke said. "I had a good rookie year and I got a little too confident and then had a bad second year because of it. Something probably happened to where I had a real good year last year and just lost a little motivation in my process, which isn't good. I just probably need to figure out a way to not let that happen."

Greinke, seated comfortably in his clubhouse chair, said that this season just wasn't the same and that he seemed to lack the same energy and focus that he put into last season.

"I kind of came with the approach to win games and a couple of months in, you kind of figure it really wasn't going to happen and a lot of stuff just kind of wears you out a little bit," he said. "Your mind, with how much focus you have to put in to doing something, and I was just a little burned out a little bit."

Greinke was asked if he felt burned out now, with three starts left in his season.

"No, I'm starting to feel better actually," he replied. "But about the midpoint of the year, it's kind of tough, realizing we weren't going to make it to the playoffs this year. That was really the only goal coming into the season and it was kind of a letdown when that happened. You just had to find a way to re-motivate yourself when that stuff happens."

A big part of Greinke's story, of course, is how he left the Royals for a time in 2006 to overcome a bout with what was later described as a social anxiety disorder. He overcame that with the help of medication and resumed his career later that season. For the most part, the disorder has been under control.

"In the offseason, I think we're going to up the dosage some because I had a little bit of problems with it some this year. But we're just going to have to up the dosage a little bit and it should help it out," he said.

"But I've kind of gone through swings. Like right now it's fine, but sometimes it's a little worse. But I think it's all just normal. You can't just stay on the same dosage all the time. Most of the time it's fine; sometimes it's worse than others but it's never as bad as it was back in the day."

Getting into the playoffs is Greinke's one burning ambition. He's been a magazine cover boy, he's been an All-Star, he won the Cy Young. Now he wants more.

"The main point of everything is I spent my whole life trying to be the best pitcher possible and last year I kind of reached those goals," Greinke said. "And now my goal is to win games. My goal is to win."

Sipping on a paper cup of coffee, Greinke added that he doesn't necessary want to be "on the best team of all time" that would have an easy time in the playoffs and cruise into the World Series.

"But I want to be on a team that's trying to win. And that's my whole thing. That's my goal now -- to win, not to win the Cy Young or even [be in] All-Star Games or whatever," he said. "I just want to be on a team that's working towards winning right now. I don't want to just go through years where you're rebuilding. It's not something that gets me excited is all. So my whole point is my desire is to win games."

Many baseball prognosticators figured the 2010 Royals would be better, even get to .500 or perhaps beyond. Greinke was among the optimists. He knew the Royals were underdogs, that Minnesota would be good if the Twins adapted well to their new park, but perhaps Detroit and Chicago and certainly Cleveland could be caught.

"But we didn't really do what we needed to do to live up to our part," he said.

Why not?

"No. 1, our pitching didn't get better from last year," he said, noting that the bullpen failed early and the starters faltered later. "But overall, no matter how good our offense would be, the way our pitching's been this year we're not going to make the playoffs unless it gets better. And that's been the No. 1 problem, probably."

Looking ahead, Greinke is aware that the Royals' Minor League system has improved markedly in the past three or four years with such players as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and John Lamb gaining notice this season.

And Greinke sees a brighter future for the Royals.

"Probably the biggest difference now between our system four years ago and now is we had some talent in our Minor League system four years ago, but we didn't have any big league talent. And now we have even more Minor League talent than we did then but we also have some big league talent, too," Greinke said. "So you could kind of mix it and it's a lot better because of that. If it's just Minor League talent, you can't just have 25 Minor League guys come up and start winning games. Now we have ... not the most talented big league team in all of baseball although we do have some pieces that should be productive big leaguers, unlike four years ago when we didn't have many."

Greinke's contract with the Royals runs through 2012. He only wants to win. Could it be here in Kansas City?

"That's up to the organization, how they're going to go about it. None of this other stuff is anything, it's just what the organization does," he said. "But my only motivation now is winning. I have no motivation to do any other stuff. When we're 20 games out, it's hard to get excited to come to the park."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.