UPDATE – 6:03 PM: Ron Roenicke and Greinke finally spoke on the issue, and none of the shenanigans we had speculated about are apparently true. Roenicke said that the three consecutive starts messed with Greinke’s schedule, and they wanted to give him some extra rest like they did Gallardo. However, there still is a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding the story, and Greinke’s comments (he didn’t seem thrilled about Roenicke’s decision) haven’t helped.
The Brewers made an unexpected move today, announcing that they would be shuffling their pitching rotation around for the next two series, apparently in an attempt to get Zack Greinke some extra rest. According to Adam McCalvy, Greinke, who was scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Cardinals, will be replaced by Tyler Thornburg for that start, and won’t appear in the following series against the Reds, either. With these changes, the Brewers’ rotation would line up for the next six games – all critical matchups against teams ahead of them in the division – like this:
* Monday vs. STL – Mike Fiers
* Tuesday vs. STL – Randy Wolf
* Wednesday vs. STL – Tyler Thornburg
* Friday @ CIN – Yovani Gallardo
* Saturday @ CIN – Marco Estrada
* Sunday @ CIN – Mike Fiers
The change in the schedule is straightforward enough, but why exactly the Brewers made this move is still very much up in the air. It simply doesn’t make sense that the Brewers would shut down their ace for a six-game stretch that has been described by GM Doug Melvin as the period that will determine the club’s approach at the trading deadline. Beat writers Tom Haudricourt and Adam McCalvy have had little more to say, and no one else, affiliated with the Brewers or no, has provided anything close to an explanation, save for Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:
According to Melvin, skipping Greinke’s start is merely an effort to get the right-hander, who has apparently been dealing with fatigue, back to full strength sooner. Tom Haudricourt sort of agreed, saying on the JS website (paywall alert!) that the Brewers were just hoping to get Greinke back into his normal routine. However, this doesn’t completely make sense: If Greinke was fatigued, then why did he start three consecutive games last week? Also, the “getting Greinke back into his normal routine” rationale doesn’t hold up as well when you consider that the Brewers just pushed Greinke off of his normal schedule (his Wednesday start would have been on regular rest). The relative lack of clarity surrounding what should be an important announcement has led to tons of speculation on Twitter as to whether something else is amiss. All kinds of theories have been thrown around, but all of them roughly fall into three categories, each of which may or may not be true:
Theory #1: Everything Melvin is saying is completely true.
This one isn’t a lot of fun, but it seems to have the backing of most of the people closest to the club, as well as those who have spoke on the record. (In his article, Haudricourt appeared to scoff at the other scenarios, though he did close with “You have to wonder if something more serious has happened”.) We learned a long time ago that you should never trust anything Doug Melvin says, but the possibility that he’s using Rosenthal to outright deceive the public seems slim, especially when he wasn’t obligated to say anything at all. However, it’s hard to believe that this is the whole story. We’ve already listed several points where “Greinke is just tired and could use some extra rest” doesn’t really hold up on its own, and it seems like we would have heard more by now if this were the complete explanation. There’s been some speculation as to whether Greinke’s “fatigue” might be mental as well as physical, and, while it’s completely unsubstantiated, it does make some sense.
Theory #2: There’s some kind of injury we don’t know about.
Doug Melvin has said that Greinke is physically fine, but it seems odd that the Brewers would go to such lengths if that were the only thing going on. Granted, Greinke hasn’t pitched very well in July and that’s probably hurt his trade stock a little, but completely skipping his start reeks of health concerns, and it’s hard to believe that the Brewers would damage his trade value by doing so if it were a mere fatigue issue. If the club simply pushed Greinke’s start back two days, it wouldn’t likely bother potential trade partners in any way, while also ensuring Greinke (instead of Estrada or Fiers) would get the ball against the first-place Reds. Also, the ado made about his “fatigue” doesn’t add up when you consider that his much-hyped back-to-back-to-back starts consisted of eight innings in a six-day period. A lot of people have wondered whether Greinke isn’t injured in some way, especially after recalling how innocuous Shaun Marcum’s troubles seemed when we first heard about them.
Again, though, no one reputable has even brought up this possibility, and there’s no hard evidence to suggest that there’s any truth to it – the strongest argument for this scenario is the number of holes that can be poked in the first theory. The fact that Greinke apparently threw today (very carefully, though) also gives credence to the thought that most of our original worst fears were overblown.
Theory #3: A more important move is coming.
The fact that Greinke was scratched from his start without warning led to a lot of conclusions that either a trade or contract extension may be in the works. The general idea was that either the “We’ll wait until after the Reds’ series to decide whether to buy or sell” quote from Melvin was just a front, and that some club had given Milwaukee an offer they couldn’t refuse for Greinke, or that his stock had dropped to the point that an extension was imminent.
However, there’s nothing grounded in reality to suggest that any trade or extension in the works, and the best case to be made for it is that we really don’t know anything else.
I’ll update as more news becomes available.