There was a time not long ago that many KC Royals fans feared this day would never come, or at best might be delayed until late April, May, or even June.
Indeed, some of us even held the dark fear that the lockout meant Opening Day wouldn’t come at all this season.
Yet here we are, only one week after from the originally-scheduled starting date, ready on a windy, cold, clear first Thursday in April to begin the 2022 baseball season against Cleveland, and what better way for the Royals to open up than with what will hopefully be the triumphant return of fan favorite Zack Greinke.
I’ll resist the temptation to detail Greinke’s illustrious tenure with Kansas City from 2004 to 2010; after all, chances are you’re already well-versed in his Royal achievements and accolades, including the Cy Young award he won with the club in 2009. So let’s focus on what the 18-season big league veteran can provide this club 12 years after the Royals traded him to Milwaukee.
Greinke moved from the Brewers to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Arizona dealt him to the Astros at the 2019 trade deadline, so he spent a little less than half the season with the club, but in that time proved his repertoire of pitches was still nasty, going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA. Between Arizona and Houston that season, Greinke was 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA.
During the Covid-19-abbreviated 2020 season, Greinke’s production declined a bit—he posted a 3-3 record and his ERA rose to 4.03.
But 2021 was better. Greinke started his and the Astros’ campaign with his first-ever Opening Day win, an 8-1 win against Oakland in which didn’t allow the A’s a run in the six frames he pitched. He also chalked up his first complete game in over two years by holding Toronto to just a run in a 13-1 Houston victory in June. He finished the season with an 11-6 record and 4.16 ERA.
After the Astros lost the 2021 World Series to the Braves, Greinke’s talents were back on the market, and what better team for him to call his new home than his old home? Greinke recently signed sign a one-year, $13 million contract to don Royal Blue once more.
What should we expect from the return of Zack Greinke to the KC Royals?
Without question, Greinke can still dish out some nastiness. Although his prime is behind him, that doesn’t mean Greinke is washed up, or that he doesn’t still have some gas in his right arm to fuel his filthy slider.
So expect Greinke to carve his way through at least five or six innings today, with José Ramírez, who signed a five-year, $124 million contract extension just yesterday, being one of the few Guardian batters I foresee giving him much trouble.
Not only do Greinke’s steady numbers speak for themselves, but so do his intangibles, such as the 18 years of big league experience he brings to a somewhat youthful clubhouse. Kansas City’s young pitchers can learn from the veteran who started pitching for the Royals when Brady Singer was just eight years old.
Greinke’s presence after a 12-year absence will also guarantee more fans in Kauffman Stadium seats that need to be filled. A local hero like Greinke should attract not only die-hard fans of the game and the Royals, but also some newcomers who want to witness one of the best at his craft.
So how will the Royals do today? With the hitting of Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez and top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City will beat the Guardians 5-3 and Greinke will achieve the second Opening Day win of his career.
See you at The K!
Zack Greinke is back in Kansas City. He’ll throw the first pitch of the season today at 3:10 p.m.