PHOENIX -- This isn't exactly earth-shattering news, but it appears Zack Greinke won't be ready to pitch for the Dodgers in Australia. The right-hander continues to improve from a right calf strain that forced him out of his first Cactus League start on Thursday, but there simply isn't enough time for Greinke to build up his pitch count to be ready on March 22-23 in Sydney, when the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks in two regular season games.
"He can't be in the mix if you're thinking as a 90-pitch guy," manager Don Mattingly said on Monday afternoon. "This setback is just what we talked about. You miss a pen, you miss an outing and the next thing you know you're off schedule."
Greinke threw just four pitches in his Thursday start against Arizona, and has played catch on flat ground every day since. He threw as long as 120 feet on Monday morning, and says his calf feels better.
"He feels better today. We still haven't really scheduled a bullpen. I think he's getting a little more confident. You could see it just talking to him in the morning," Mattingly said. "As we know, Zack's pretty honest, so if he says it's feeling better it usually feels better. Now we just wait."
The Dodgers don't have a timetable for Greinke's next start, but he will need to throw a bullpen session before said start, and we aren't even yet at that point. Mattingly has said that Greinke's next start, whenever it is, will be on the back fields at Camelback Ranch in a more controlled environment.
Leaving Greinke behind in Arizona when the Dodgers fly to Australia on the night of March 16 would allow him to continue to progress by pitching in minor league games, possibly getting ready for when the Dodgers open the domestic portion of their regular season on March 30 in San Diego. If Clayton Kershaw starts the opener against the Padres, the earliest Greinke would pitch is April 1 in the second game of the series at Petco Park.
The Dodgers can backdate disabled list stints as early as March 19, making the first game available for players who open the season on the DL the home opener on April 4 against the Giants. If Greinke avoids a DL trip, he would likely occupy one of the three exempt spots (ineligible to play in Sydney) on the 28-man roster the Dodgers must submit to MLB by 7 p.m. PT on March 21, six hours before their regular season opener down under.