What's up with Zack Greinke?

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Zack Greinke frustrated.jpgIt’s the obvious storyline after Friday’s 10-3 loss to the Twins. Greinke allowed four runs — two earned — over five innings while walking five and striking out five. The five walks were the most Greinke had allowed in a start since June 13, 2008.

Through his first three starts this season, Greinke has allowed 10 runs — seven earned — over 17 2/3 innings (3.57 ERA). He didn’t give up his seventh earned run last season until May 26 — in his 10th start of the year. Greinke gave up back-to-back home runs in his last start against the Red Sox. He didn’t give up his first home run last season until June 5 — his 12th start of the season.

Greinke tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that his early ineffectiveness could be due to a failure to execute his game plan:

“I think my mind is just not right on how to pitch,” he said, “because
every game I’ve been able to throw the ball close to where I wanted (to
throw it). I’m just not getting the job done.

“It could be, a
little bit, just not executing the pitches. But I think my game plan has
been wrong. Some of the pitches are not really sharp, but they’re good
enough to where I should, at the very least, be able to pitch deeper
into games.”

I’m confident that Greinke will be just fine moving forward, but it’s no stretch to say that he could be battling two exterior factors right now. One, the pressure to be perfect knowing that his joke of a bullpen could cough up a lead and at any moment. And two, trying to pitch with the knowledge that his start to the ’09 season is an impossibly difficult act to follow.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?