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Greinke has plenty on offseason plate

Greinke has plenty on offseason plate

KANSAS CITY -- Less than a month from now, Zack Greinke will know whether he's won the American League Cy Young Award.

That announcement will come Tuesday, Nov. 17.

Meanwhile, Greinke has other matters to concern him, such as his Nov. 21 wedding date with Emily Kuchar. Just before the Royals' season ended, we sat down with Greinke to chat with him about that and a few other things not necessarily related to his Cy Young chances.

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If you've followed Greinke, you know he's not particularly enamored with media interviews. He's certainly not a hey-look-at-me type. But he loves to pitch in the Major Leagues and knows dealing with reporters is part of the job. In fact, Greinke seems most relaxed with the media when dissecting a game after he's pitched; he's certainly precise, often blunt, sometimes entertaining, always honest.

But he hadn't pitched on this day, so we touched on other things, like his involvement in plans for the wedding to his high school sweetheart. Emily, he said, was doing most of it.

"That's what she's been doing, talking to me a bunch about it. [So I'm] getting involved in that," Greinke said. "I don't know anything about that stuff."

But doesn't he get some input on, say, things like the music?

"I think I was supposed to, but I didn't do anything, so she did it. She's doing it all. I just wanted there to be like four people there. And she invited like 200 people and I only wanted four of them there, so she's doing all the work," he said.

We got caught up on the family.

His parents, Don and Marsha, are retired schoolteachers in Orlando, Fla., but they keep busy.

"My mom can't help but find work somewhere, she just has to be doing something. My dad just fixes the yard and goes to the gym every day and that's about it. My mom just keeps finding work and takes the dog on a bunch of walks and stuff," Greinke said.

Were they excited about his big season?

"I think so. My dad's probably real excited. My mom's excited, but she doesn't care about that stuff a whole lot. She just wants me to be happy," he said.

And he is happy, right?

"Yeah."

His brother, Luke, also a right-handed pitcher, played at Auburn University. Unlike Zack, he wasn't a first-round Draft choice; the Yankees picked him in the 28th round in 2008. Then he had to undergo surgery for a torn labrum and the Yankees released him during Spring Training this year.

"He's looking for a job, working out to possibly come back next year and pitch because he was hurt. So he'll be healthy by next year," Greinke said.

With Greinke's obviously considerable clout, why doesn't he lobby the Royals to give his brother a try?

"I don't go out of my way for that stuff," he said.

This year, more than ever before, Greinke was an interactive presence in the clubhouse. Before his well-publicized absence and treatment for a social anxiety disorder in 2006, he often seemed shy and something of a loner. After his return to the Majors, he struck up friendships with Gil Meche and other pitchers. This year, he's been involved in clubhouse card games, sometimes with Latino teammates.

"I always liked playing cards. They played other games in years before. I only liked playing a couple of games. They were playing Casino and Rummy last year and I don't really like those games too much," he said.

His games?

"Pluck, Spades or Hold 'Em -- all those are good," he said.

Is Greinke good at it?

"I think so, I don't know what everyone else thinks."

Does he win?

"Sure, I win more than I lose. I guess I could be wrong, but I think I do."

Greinke is always the competitor, of course, but he finds cards as a way to relax.

"I feel like it's best when you don't get intense in cards and just stick to the plan and strategy and don't really mess with it, because when you do something that doesn't work or the odds aren't in your favor, you're going to lose more than you're going to win that way. So that's how I play," Greinke said.

And, perhaps, something of the way he pitches as well.

Being an exceptionally athletic person, Greinke also is a golfer -- at times.

"Early on in the year I golfed a bunch, now I've been on the computer a bunch," he said. "I kind of switched. Early on, it was golfing and working out; now it's just resting and not doing much. [This offseason], I'll probably play a bunch of golf to be active somehow. Just trying to rest the body to finish the year is why I stopped doing all that stuff really."

Obviously, at that late point of the season, Greinke knew he had to save his strength for the long haul of pitching every fifth day. By now, he's undoubtedly sharpening his work on the tees, fairways and greens.

"I'm all right, I want to be better. I need to spend a whole lot of time on it," he said.

Greinke signed a four-year deal with the Royals last January that takes him through 2012 and rewards him handsomely -- $7.25 million next year and $13.5 million in each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. But he's often asked if he wouldn't rather have taken free agency after '10 and looked at a big-market deal.

"No, not really, because I know I'd rather pitch in Kansas City than anywhere else," he said. "It'd be nice if we did better this year, but we should be fine next year. I like playing in Kansas City; not too much to complain about except losing a bunch of games. But all of the other positives outweigh that."

And, yes, he was certainly disappointed by the Royals' performance this year.

"I thought we were going to do a lot better this year, but we had a couple of injuries early on in the year and we didn't really have people step up to take their places," he said. "Most of the guys did what you'd kind of expect from them. No one really did more than expected and a couple of people got hurt. No one stepped up like the Angels and the Twins when they had injuries, people came in and filled the spots real good for them. It didn't work out for us early in the year and the middle of the year."

One thing that reporters love about Greinke is that he's blunt and says what's on his mind.

"It gets me in trouble sometimes, but I don't feel like saying something I don't mean, because then it's just confusion." Greinke said. "I hate it when people say they're going to be somewhere at a certain time and then they're not there. I just don't get the point of that. Like why not just say when you're actually going to be there? So it's stuff like that that bothers me."

For example, after he beat the Twins in front of a large crowd in his last Kansas City appearance this year, he was asked about the fans whooping it up about his Cy Young chances. Greinke he was "annoyed" by it.

Later, a team public relations official suggested that Greinke perhaps just meant "distracted." How about that, Zack?

"No, annoyed is the proper word. It's fine if it's a little bit, but lately there's been a lot that's annoying. It's just annoying," he replied.

Honest Zack paused for just a second.

"It'd be better to say I like it," he said. "But I don't."

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

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