Angels have short- and long-term hopes for Greinke
Team counting on him aiding World Series run, also wants to re-sign free agent-to-be
ANAHEIM -- Thirteen.
That's how many Zack Greinke starts the Angels are promised if you begin with his Sunday debut against the Rays and go every fifth day until the end of the regular season, his last before free agency. The Angels, of course, hope it's plenty more than that. They hope he's pitching for them in October, after he helps them erase their four-game deficit in the American League West, and they hope he's with them for years to come, after they sign him to an extension.
As Greinke took to the podium for his introductory news conference at Angel Stadium on Saturday, one day after the Angels parted ways with three prominent prospects to beat out the Rangers and pluck him from the Brewers, the length of his tenure in Southern California was the most compelling issue at hand.
But not something Greinke was willing to shed much light on.
"I haven't talked to my agent or anyone since the news of getting traded, but I don't usually talk about that stuff with the media," Greinke said, before providing at least a small glimmer of hope for Angels fans and executives: "It's an organization probably just about everybody in baseball would want to be a part of. That's one way to put it."
And for now the Angels will take that, because Greinke provides so much for their immediate title hopes.
A fifth All-Star for a rotation that includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, along with the promising young Garrett Richards looking to join them.
A sparkling track record, boasting a 2009 American League Cy Young Award and standing as one of the best pitchers in the game over the last five years.
A power arm, perhaps the best raw stuff in the Angels' staff.
A necessary weapon for a rotation that was leaking oil over the last several weeks, with Haren fighting back stiffness, Santana continuing a nightmarish season and Richards and Jerome Williams being hit-and-miss.
And, perhaps most important of all, a starting pitcher the needy Rangers didn't get -- reportedly because they weren't willing to give up enough to acquire him.
"Well, I know the team is really good," Greinke said of his new home. "I haven't been over here for a year and a half, I guess, with Kansas City, so I've been away from American League teams. But they've always been good, and I guess the pitching staff has gotten even better since I left."
And they're better with him here.
Greinke, fresh off giving up one run in seven innings in a Tuesday start that solidified his trade value, had a 3.44 ERA, 122 strikeouts and 28 walks in 123 innings for the Brewers this season. Since '08, when he was with the Royals, the 28-year-old right-hander ranks 18th in the Majors in ERA (3.32), 14th in innings (946 1/3) and fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.95).
The only real blemishes are a social-anxiety disorder that almost caused him to quit baseball in the spring of '06, but is now a lot more under control, and a 6.48 ERA in three starts during last year's playoffs.
"I mean, he has the kind of stuff that lights scouts' eyes up," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's what I remember about him. He controlled the running game, is an outstanding athlete, he has a great game feel out there, and hopefully he'll get comfortable and we'll see that."
Greinke spent 2004-10 in the AL while pitching for the Royals, the team that made him the sixth overall Draft pick in '02, but had never spoken to any of his new rotation mates until he arrived on Saturday. He does know Alberto Callaspo from their days in Kansas City together and was a teammate of LaTroy Hawkins with the Brewers last year.
Asked about the main thing that sticks out about Greinke, Hawkins said: "Just how well-prepared he is. He's like 'Rain Man,' dude."
Backup catcher Bobby Wilson was Greinke's teammate on an AAU travel-ball team that was based out of Orlando, Fla., and also featured Prince Fielder. Back then, Greinke was an infielder and power hitter.
"He didn't really start pitching until he got a little bit older in high school, but he was a great position player," Wilson recalled. "He hit third, fourth in our lineup in travel ball and was a great third baseman. The next thing I know, he's pitching, so obviously he had a tremendous arm and that's the route he took."
And that route has taken him to Southern California, after first-year general manager Jerry Dipoto gave up shortstop Jean Segura and power right-handed starters Ariel Pena and John Hellweg in the blockbuster trade.
The Angels were hesitant to part ways with premier prospects for a rental player, especially given the diminishing Draft-pick compensation under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but they didn't have to deal Richards or center fielder Peter Bourjos.
And they believe there's a good chance they can re-sign Greinke.
Reports have indicated the Angels were one of Greinke's preferred destinations, along with the Braves and Cardinals. This offseason, they'll have money coming off the books with Bobby Abreu (playing for the Dodgers but still owed $9 million by the Angels this season) and Torii Hunter (making $18 million in 2012) being free agents. They can also free up money by declining the 2013 team options for Haren ($15.5 million) and/or Santana ($13 million).
It may take something between the six-year, $112.5 million deal Matt Cain now has with the Giants and the six-year, $144 million extension Cole Hamels signed with the Phillies.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," said Dipoto, who will pay the prorated share of Greinke's $13.5 million this year. "For the time being, we're thrilled to acquire a player of Zack's caliber. We're excited to see him get out there and see what kind of difference he can make for the 2012 Angels. We'll worry about the rest later."
Right now, it's all about those next 13 or so starts, and what they can mean for the Angels' title hopes.
"I'm just focusing on playing and winning as many games as possible," Greinke said. "That's all that's going on in my mind right now."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.