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Greinke on leaving Royals... and maybe coming back

By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star

Before you ask… yes, Zack Greinke had plenty to say on Tuesday night.

Greinke, the former Royals ace, allowed just one earned run and six hits in seven innings while his Milwaukee Brewers fell to the Royals 2-1 at Kauffman Stadium.

It was Greinke’s first return to Kauffman Stadium since forcing an offseason trade following the 2010 season. On Tuesday, he allowed a fountain-shot homer to Alex Gordon to lead off the bottom of the first, but he soon settled down and looked like vintage Zack.

Greinke, of course, will be a free agent after the season, and following the game, he spoke for nearly 12 minutes on a variety of topics, including Royals fans, his departure and whether he might come back to Kansas City someday.

Here’s Greinke’s postgame interview — with some questions edited for clarity.

Q: Was pitching back here really exciting and maybe why you were throwing so hard?

A: I mean, yea, it was exciting. I wasn’t like any more getting ready for the game or anything, but probably it started earlier, where when I woke up, I was probably a little more excited than usual. But once I got to the park, it was the same, and once on the mound, it was the same, too.

Q: Did you sense any reaction from the fans?

A: Decent amount of cheers, I thought. I got to see my favorite fan ever in the bullpen.... He’s there every game, I think they call him “Oxygen Dave.” But I liked him. So he was the same spot as always.

Q: Zack, can you go through that first at-bat against Gordon?

A: Yea, I pitched him really good and got to 3-2, and he was leading off the game so I was just making sure I threw a strike; I didn’t want to walk the leadoff guy. So I was like: ‘Oh, I’ll let him hit it,’ and he hit it pretty good. But I do it all the time. It just worked out for them that time. It was right down the middle and up.

Q: A lot people had Greinke jerseys on. I don’t know if you noticed that — Greinke Royals jerseys.

A: There was one, maybe two. One or two. But that was cool. I remember when I was here there was more people wearing like Affeldt jerseys.

Q: Did you get a chance to catch up with any of your old teammates before the game?

A: No, I’ve talked to a lot of them since, in other places. There’s no real reason to now. And I don’t really like talking to the other team. So just because I know someone doesn’t mean I’m gonna talk to them on the other team… Occasionally, I’ll wave, but I just don’t think you should be doing that very often. 

Q: When you face a lineup that has hitters like Moustakas and Butler and Gordon and they’re all pretty young. Is this a franchise you think is finally heading in the right direction?

A: I don’t know. Some of those guys are pretty good hitters, though. A lot of power, it seems like. I don’t know if their power numbers have been really good, but you know it when you’re facing them; you can’t really make a mistake, or else they can do some damage.

They got more than just those three guys. I mean, there’s some holes, but they got a lot of strengths, too.

Q: People in Kansas City would like nothing better, if you go to free agency, than to see the Royals sign you and bring you back home – or what they can consider home. How does that make you feel? Is that a realistic possibility?

A: It’s nice because I was pretty rude on the way out. I felt like I had to (be) in order to get out. But I didn’t want to have to be the bad guy, but I felt like I had to be. But I liked it here. Like I said, the fans were great. I don’t know how so many of them come to the games when they’ve been bad for so long. But it’s pretty impressive. I think they’re like beating five or six teams in the American League, and some teams are really good, and Kansas City’s outdrawing them. So that just shows you how, for all that they’ve been through, to still come out is pretty cool.

Q: Are the Royals better than the team you left?

A: Offensewise, yea, they are. Defensewise, I don’t know. I know they got Escobar and Cain and some more defensive-minded guys. … Pitching is probably about the same. Bullpen looks good now. I felt like (the relievers) were pretty good when I was there, too, the last couple years. It might be better now. I think they have like, maybe the best bullpen in baseball. I’m not positive about that. They all throw all pretty hard.

Q: You said you were pretty rude on your way out (in Kansas City). Do you regret anything that you said, looking back?

A: I mean, maybe. But I felt like I had to do it. I felt like the only way would be to force myself out. I don’t think anyone would have been able to trade me if I played like this great guy. And so I had to give them motivation to do it.

Q: So you don’t think that’s a bridge that’s necessarily been burned?

A: I mean, maybe. But I’m still with the Brewers. I like playing in Milwaukee. And, the guys here are great. The organization’s great. And the city is good. Coming back to Kansas City, though, I mean the city is really nice, too.

I don’t know if it’s — it’s probably not always this sunny. But the weather was great… and nice areas.

Q: Every one is reading a lot into the fact that you haven’t sold your house here.

A: No, that has nothing to do with anything. Sorry to break it to everyone. I got a two-year lease, so it was like, ‘Might as well rent it out.’ And when I got married, it was our first home, so my wife doesn’t really want to get rid of it, either.

Q: Are you looking forward to maybe coming back July 10th for the All-Star Game?

A: If I keep pitching good and stuff; it’s hard to make it as a starter. You have to be a reliever to make the All-Star team, it seems like nowadays.

Q: Any special meaning with the haircut today or was it just time?

A: Nah, [it was my] haircut guy from back in the day. He used to have a cool charm of some clippers, but they’re gone now. He does a good job. He told me to give him a shout-out today, too.

Q: What’s his name?

A: I wish I knew.

Q: Was it your strategy you came up with on your own to get traded?

A: I was just playing it at the moment. I don’t think I really thought of anything – like a game plan or anything. But I enjoyed my time in Kansas City.

Q: Where is your Cy Young Award? Where do you keep that?

A: I gave it to my Dad, but he gave it back to me this offseason so now it’s at our house. I don’t know why – he said he wanted me to have it or something.

Q: Is that your goal – to win another one so you can give another one to him?

A: I’m more into winning games nowadays. I always was more into winning games, it just, uh, worked out that year. I’d rather get back to the playoffs and hopefully pitch better this time. 

To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.

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