http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/w ... index.html
John Donovan wrote:Zack Greinke is still fighting for a place in the Royals' rotation. Nobody is about to let him forget that little face-smack of reality. Kansas City's former kid wunderpitcher is currently just one of about a thousand other guys in camp -- OK, so maybe it's just five or so -- trying to fill one or two spots at the back end of a fledgling starting staff.
The most important part of Greinke's situation is not what he faces, though, or what he's been through or where he's going to end up. It is this: Greinke is still fighting. That he is fighting and winning right now just happens to be a bonus for the young righty and the Royals.
"I thought that was the best I've seen him in a long time. It looked like he was in control of everything," Royals manager Buddy Bell said after Greinke shut down a traveling Rockies' team Wednesday in a four-inning stint in Surprise. "That's kind of the way he threw when I first saw him."
Greinke's tortured story is, on the one end, a sad one, but on this side there is hope that it may yet turn out well. Rushed to the big leagues with a whole lot of fanfare and some modest success as a 20-year-old rookie in 2004, Greinke was at one time the Royals' future. He was to be the cornerstone of the franchise's rebuilding plan, the proverbial ace in the hole.
But behind all the promise, Greinke was being crushed by a nearly debilitating case of depression and constant bouts of social anxiety, illnesses that had plagued him for much of his life. Even during his short stint in the minors, he struggled with his depression, entertaining thoughts of quitting a game he had grown to despise. He pitched on, though, and in 2005 he lost 17 games, deepening his depression and hatred of the game.
Last February, during a wild throwing session with catcher John Buck at the team's spring training complex here on the outskirts of Phoenix, he broke down completely. Afterward, he unburdened himself to Bell and the team's general manager at the time, Allard Baird, then missed almost the entire season as he sought psychological help.
Now back, the blonde, buzz-cut, boyish-looking Greinke is determined to give this his best. Wednesday, in his four tidy innings against the Rockies, he struck out six batters, didn't walk anyone and gave up only four hits. He spotted his fastball, clocked in the low 90s, well. His killer curve seemed to be working. He used a slider to strike out at least one Colorado batter, after repeatedly shaking off Buck. And Greinke has unleashed a newer, harder curve that shows great potential.
Afterward, he pronounced himself happy about the outing and where it might lead.
"I felt really good about it, like things were coming back. Not just to where I pitched last year, but where I pitched a while ago," said Greinke, who now takes antidepressants for his illness. "The feel of just reading the batters and knowing what pitches to throw, and where to throw them and what's a good pitch, or not.
"I still have a long way to go. But it was just a good feeling ... that I feel like I know what to do."
This was not an ordinary spring training outing for Greinke. With just a couple of weeks left before the start of the season, it's getting to the time that someone in K.C.'s ridiculously young group of starters [see chart] begins to separate from the pack. Greinke, especially, needed to show Bell and others that he could handle the pressures of being a starting pitcher in the majors. "It's kind of a defining point," general manager Dayton Moore said before the game.
Greinke had pitched well in his previous spring starts, but he knew that he had not pitched well enough to remove all the doubts. Greinke took the mound Wednesday needing to show that he could get through four innings without blowing up, without walking batters, without losing his focus from pitch-to-pitch.
He wasn't perfect on a cloudless afternoon in the Valley of the Sun. He hung a couple of curves. He gave up two well-struck doubles. He and Buck seemed to differ on pitch selection on several occasions. A couple of fastballs sailed dangerously high into the strike zone.
But he didn't allow any runs, and he was in control the entire time. Buck raved after the game about his friend's every-pitch concentration.
"I don't treat him any differently, baby him or anything, because of what he's been through. If anything, he's the type of pitcher that likes you to straight-shoot him. He doesn't want any excuses," Buck said. "He's a good dude, well-liked in the clubhouse. As much time as we spend together, we're all friends first, so you can't help but pull for a friend."
As good as Greinke might be, it is clear that, at least for now, his days as an ace are over. He prefers the anonymity of the bottom of the rotation to the pressures of being the stud of the staff. In fact, Greinke -- soft-spoken, somewhat withdrawn but polite and accommodating in a talk after the game -- said he might like to pitch out of the bullpen, an idea that he had a couple of years ago when he hated the game and believed pitching more often might make him hate it less.
That remains a possibility if another potential starter suddenly begins to tear things up. Moore would say only that putting Greinke in long relief might be something the club considers.
"I don't want to be a starter if there's someone better than me that can start. I don't even want to be a reliever if they think that there's someone better than me to relieve," Greinke said. "I just want to help the team win."
Before he gets that chance, Greinke still has plenty to do. He's scheduled to go maybe five or six innings next time out, throwing between 65-75 pitches. If he gets through that, there'll be another spring start, and then a final one. If he makes it through those, a long, arduous season begins.
For Greinke, there's always another game to pitch. Always another fight to fight.
"Yeah," Greinke said. "That's the way it is."
I don't know much of a history with other players with similar sorts of troubles and/or how successful they were in making a comeback(unless you assume Rick Ankiel must have had some kind of depression/anxiety about pitching), so does anyone else know of any examples from baseball past?
Since I'm in the process of studying to eventually hold a career of a Clinical Psychologist, I just found his whole situation interesting since I'd never heard of it happening before to too many big-time baseball players. I hope he can get through his troubles because he could be an amazing talent to watch.
Does this story suggest the idea that kids are being rushed to the big-time too quickly(he was brought up as a 20-year old and christened by just about everyone as someone who might be the savior of the Royals franchise) and being put under too much pressure?