By Guy Curtright, MLB.com
Zack Greinke has completed his rehab, and cut his hair. Now, it is finally showtime.
The 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner is scheduled to make his long-awaited first start for the Brewers on Wednesday night against the Braves at Turner Field.
“There is definitely a lot of anticipation,” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. “We’re excited about getting him out there and seeing what he can do.
“It’s kind of the equivalent of making a big acquisition [during the season]. We only had CC [Sabathia] for two months [in 2008]. We’ll have Zack for five and hopefully six months.”
Of course, the Brewers should have already had Greinke — obtained in a blockbuster deal with the Royals over the winter — for five weeks. But the right-hander cracked a rib playing pickup basketball at the start of camp and began the season on the disabled list.
“It’s encouraging to get the guys in there that you had planned to have at the beginning,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who was also missing right fielder Corey Hart until last week.
Greinke made three Minor League starts to get ready, the last two for Triple-A Nashville. He worked five innings for the Sounds on Friday, giving up two runs on seven hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Greinke rejoined the Brewers on Saturday in Houston, still sporting his Prince Valliant haircut. By Sunday, the hair was gone.
“I said, ‘Zack, I thought you were just going to get rid of those things on the side,'” Roenicke said. “But he buzzed it.”
“My hair kept getting in my eyes,” Greinke said. “I couldn’t find a headband that I liked.”
The new look, of course, drew the attention of teammates.
“He went from Luke Skywalker to Pvt. [Gomer] Pyle,” fellow pitcher Randy Wolf said.
“He says he’s more aerodynamic now. He’s quicker,” added Braun.
But the Brewers don’t care that much about how Greinke looks. They care a lot about how he pitches, though. They need him if they are to be contenders in the National League Central as hoped.
“We’re excited about finally being back at full strength and hopefully staying that way,” Braun said.
Greinke will be allowed to throw up to about 90 pitches in his debut against the Braves. He threw 75 in his final rehab outing for Nashville.
“It was pretty good,” Greinke said of that outing. “All my stuff was pretty decent. I was locating pretty good. I was able to use every pitch. None of them were, like, amazing, but they were all usable.
“I’m healthy, for sure. I’ve been healthy for a while now. I just had to get my arm strength.
“It feels pretty good. Maybe I’m where I should be when the season starts. Maybe one start before that. It should be good enough to be able to pitch my game.”
Greinke knows that there would have been a lot of attention on his first start with the Brewers, no matter when it was. But he downplayed any personal expectations.
“I didn’t really think about anything too much. I’m just looking forward to being back,” he said.
After spending seven seasons with the Royals in the AL, Greinke will get to swing the bat regularly in the NL. He had a double for Nashville in his final rehab outing.
“He’s been talking a lot about his hitting prowess,” Braun said.
It’s on the mound, though, where the 27-year-old Greinke will be counted on.
The Brewers hope that he pitches like he did in 2009 with the Royals, when he was 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts.
Greinke dropped to 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season for the Royals, but no one questions how good he can be.
“His stuff is nasty,” said Eric Hinske, who has faced Greinke more than any other Brave because of his time in the American League. “He has special stuff. Any time you put a Cy Young Award next to somebody’s name, it makes him special.”
The Brewers now will get to have Greinke on their side.
“It’s going to be a big boost for us. No question about it,” Braun said.
“I know Zack is looking forward to getting back,” Roenicke said.