I’m going to go out on a limb and say this isn’t what Brewers fans had in mind when the team acquired Zack Greinke. The team’s newest ace and presumed Opening Day starter will begin the season on the disabled list after suffering cracked and bruised ribs in a pick-up basketball game.
This is the same injury he’s been trying to pitch through this spring, but up until now he thought it was just a bruise. He struggled with his command in his first two spring starts, but that could have just as easily been chalked up to usual early spring rustiness. Apparently, no one would have known about the injury had it not been for an MRI.
The typical healing time for cracked ribs is 4 to 6 weeks, but it has already been 2 weeks since the injury, and Greinke says it’s been feeling better as of late. The Brewers are hoping Greinke only has to miss two or three starts as a result, and the early indication is that he wouldn’t be missing any time if this happened late in the season or in the playoffs. With Opening Day still three weeks away, though, there’s no sense in rushing him back. Ultimately, it’s better to be careful when the games carry less meaning.
The early reaction to this news hasn’t been pretty. Is it a dumb way to get hurt? Sure. He’s even admitted as much. But this is not the end of the world. He’ll still be on track to pitch 200 innings for the Brewers this season. He has no real injury history to speak of.
It’s two or three starts in April. Assuming he was going to be the Opening Day starter, he’ll miss starts against Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh. If he has to miss more than three starts, his next two starts likely would be against Washington and Houston. That’s a grand total of one start against a division opponent expected to contend this year.
As Toby from Brewerfan.net points out, the difference between Greinke and a replacement level pitcher is about 0.5-0.7 WAR over the course of three starts. It’s a gap that’s significant, but not insurmountable. The Brewers managed to win games with the likes of Braden Looper, post-injury Dave Bush, and Manny Parra on the mound over the past couple years. They can do it again in a handful of games this year, especially against the likes of the Pirates, Nationals, and Astros.
On the field, the team will be fine. I don’t see this being much of a problem. What I do worry about, though, is the increasing perception that Greinke — or more accurately, what goes inside Greinke’s head — is becoming a problem.
Let me just make this plea — don’t make this about his personality, his mental health, or his social anxiety disorder. His decision to play a basketball game has nothing to do with his diagnosis (apparently, he’s not the only player on the team who does dabble in basketball). This was a freak injury that could have happened to anyone. This is not a sign that he’s a “headcase” that the Brewers will regret acquiring.
Anyone who tries pegging this on Greinke’s mental health, quite frankly, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And, unfortunately, I get the feeling that this isn’t the first time we’re going to have to deal with something like this.