Greinke hitting stride as season nears

Greinke hitting stride as season nears

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke was talking to a couple of reporters in a small hallway outside the visitors' clubhouse on Sunday when former Royals catcher Paul Phillips stopped by to shake hands.

Phillips, now with the Chicago White Sox, carried a compliment from a well-known teammate.

"Jim Thome said you had an 'electric slider,'" Phillips told Greinke.

"He might say that, but I've struck him out like eight times and he's had like eight hits -- and nothing else," Greinke replied.

If that's true, the script was followed in the Royals' 6-5 victory. Greinke faced Thome three times. The result: two hits and one strikeout.

The bottom line was that Greinke, the Royals' No. 3 starter, threw quite well through his six innings. After, that is, Jerry Owens banged his first pitch for a triple to right field.

"First pitch of the game. I've done it a hundred times. Get-me-over fastball right down the middle and a triple. So as soon as there's no outs and a man on third in the first inning, you kind of let them score," Greinke said.

Owens did, on a groundout. The White Sox got just one more run off Greinke, on Carlos Quentin's homer.

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Other than that, Greinke breezed along. He thought his changeup was the best it's ever been. His slider -- the electric one -- and his curveball were good. His fastball is getting there, although he'd like a bit more velocity.

"[Matt] Tupman called a good game. I played in Double-A with him, so I'm comfortable with him back there," Greinke said.

He gave up four hits, one walk and struck out six in his second straight satisfying performance.

"I was a little worried at the start of Spring Training. I started off way worse than I could have ever imagined," he said. "It was probably the worst game I've ever thrown. It was horrible. I had no idea where anything was going or what is was going to do. I just felt lost out there."

The lost has been found.

"The last two outings, I've been real happy with how it's gone," Greinke said.

He'll get one more start before the season begins, next weekend in an exhibition series at Milwaukee. His first regular season start will be April 3 at Detroit.

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