The good news for Zack Greinke is that on Monday night he was able to throw 64 pitches without any elbow discomfort whatsoever, in his first time facing big league hitters in 24 days. The bad news for the Dodgers is that he was roughed up by the Royals for five runs in three innings of work.
"A lot needs to be improved upon. The fastball wasn't great and the off speed was below okay," Greinke said. "The changeup was good, so there was one positive."
Greinke faced three batters in the fourth inning, and walked them all. They eventually scored.
"The first inning started too slow. It got better in the second inning and the third. The fourth inning I felt alright, but I was mad about the 3-2 pitch to Hosmer and the 3-2 pitch to Cain. Beside that I felt normal," Greinke said. "But 3-2 you can't make it that bad to where they can't even offer at it. Francoeur had an at-bat you don't expect from him. I was trying to throw close pitches and he was taking."
Greinke's last outing against major league hitters came on Mar. 1, and he noticed the difference in competition.
"I think it's a big difference. Everything is different about major league hitters and in the minors, guys who have been in the majors have a different presence," Greinke said. "My off speed was so bad they didn't even have to worry about it. So you can't even get a judge on how good my fastball was because there was nothing else they had to worry about."
Greinke threw 40 of his 64 pitches for strikes on Monday, and in his final spring tuneup on Saturday against the Angels he will likely have a limit somewhere near 75 pitches. Greinke said he will be ready for Apr. 5, his first scheduled start of the regular season.
"It tells me I have some work to do, to build up my arm strength. I also have to fine tune some off speed stuff. If the arm strength is there, I can make it work. That's the number one most important thing," he said. "We'll see if I can build up some endurance with it, where I can go 100 pitches. That's the goal. I felt good tonight, but need some improvement."
The Dodgers play their final home game on the Cactus League schedule on Tuesday night, a televised night game against the Rockies at Camelback Ranch. Aaron Harang gets the start for the Dodgers, likely with several of the same scouts in attendance to watch Chris Capuano pitch in a minor league game on Monday. Old friend Jon Garland, who signed a major league deal with the Rockies on Sunday, starts for Colorado.
Harang and Garland also faced off in a titanic matchup at Camelback Ranch on Mar. 9, when the Dodgers beat the Mariners 3-2.