SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Zack Greinke walked out to the area outside the Arizona Diamondbacks' clubhouse that houses three practice mounds, team executives Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart were already there, waiting to watch their $206 million pitcher. It was just a routine between-starts throwing session, but management obviously wanted to keep a careful eye on the team's prized investment.
La Russa and Stewart stayed for about a dozen of Greinke's 35 or so pitches, deemed everything OK and left for the nearby field to check out some batting practice.
These are the behind-the-scenes exercises of spring training, that daily grind of repetition baseball demands. Before BP, the Diamondbacks were on another field taking an old-fashioned infield practice. Coach Matt Williams was hitting grounders and throwing down bunts as the infielders worked on double plays, the catchers worked on throws to second base and a surprising amount of chatter -- "Way to go, Nick!" -- could be heard from beyond the chain-link fence.
But it was Greinke's bullpen session that every kid should watch, especially pitchers. It was almost a process of being slow. He threw all his pitches from the stretch, with that methodical, rhythmic delivery. Greinke starts with his hands just above belt level, not much of a leg kick, a slight tilt backwards with his shoulders as they line up pointing to home plate. Then the arm fires through. It looks so simple and the key, of course, is that he repeats it so effortlessly, the same delivery pitch after pitch. That's one reason you can post a 1.66 ERA.
Even during this session, in the middle of a hot afternoon in Arizona, he was a picture of concentration. He looked away once, glancing off in the distance to his left, maybe envisioning Yasiel Puig or Adrian Gonzalez at the plate or maybe just watching a crow fly by, but otherwise he was in complete focus with his catcher. He didn't react when a woman with the foghorn voice of a sailor bellowed, "Way to fire, big man! Best in a million, Mr. Greinke!" Which she repeated a couple of times.
He grunted audibly once and after throwing a curveball that appeared to hang just a bit, lightly pounded his glove as if frustrated. Later in the session, he called out to Chris Herrmann, his catcher: "Was it good or not?" Herrmann said it was. It was a slider. I heard Greinke say, "First one that came out of my finger good. Not sure it moved good or not."
Otherwise, that was all Greinke said until he, Herrmann and pitching coach Mike Butcher had a quick talk when the session ended.
As he headed back to the clubhouse, I heard the woman behind me say, "There's just something about Zack I like."