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Greinke relishes opportunity to win right away

Greinke relishes opportunity to win right away

MILWAUKEE -- Zack Greinke knows how hard it is to pull off a trade. He tried to deal for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Greg Jennings in his fantasy football league and couldn't get it done.

"It fell through," Greinke said with a shrug. "The problem, probably in baseball, too, is you always want to get something, but you like what you have. It's hard to give up what you have."

The Brewers gave up a lot to get the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner from the Royals along with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin parted with four premium young players with 23 years of Major League club control ahead of them, including the team's starting shortstop (Alcides Escobar), its potential starting center fielder (Lorenzo Cain), a possible future closer (Jeremy Jeffress) and a top pitching prospect (Jake Odorizzi) who's been compared to Greinke himself.

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So it was with some degree of appreciation that Greinke visited the Brewers' clubhouse for the first time on Monday, a day after Milwaukee and Kansas City announced the six-player blockbuster. Greinke joins a re-made Brewers starting rotation that he thinks might just pitch the team into October.

"I don't have much playoff experience, so I don't know how it all works," he joked. "I'm just hoping to get there."

Greinke has precisely zero games of postseason experience in seven Major League seasons with the Royals, and he's joining a Brewers club that has not fared much better. They did win the 2008 National League Wild Card before bowing out to the eventual World Series champion Phillies, but with Greinke and incumbent ace Yovani Gallardo atop a rebuilt rotation, hopes are high.

Greinke and Gallardo both started on Opening Day last year, as did former Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum, acquired earlier this month in a trade with the Blue Jays. Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf was the Brewers' No. 2 starter last year but will be a three or four in 2011, and another left-hander, Chris Narveson, is coming off a season of 12 wins and a 4.99 ERA.

Melvin was able to bolster the rotation without losing any of the Brewers' big bats, including first baseman Prince Fielder, a staple of trade rumors all year because he's due to reach free agency after the 2011 season. After the Brewers acquired Marcum and appeared poised to keep Fielder, Greinke was willing to consider waiving his no-trade clause for a move to Milwaukee.

"The main reason I preferred to get out of Kansas City was I wanted to be on a team that was trying to win this year. As a pitcher, you don't know how long your career is going to be, and I really wanted to be in a place they were playing to win games right away. So Milwaukee is obviously that place. I was really happy that it worked out."

He had other options. The Washington Nationals were ready to trade for Greinke over the weekend, but he invoked his no-trade rights to block that deal. That's when Melvin swooped in with another offer for Royals GM Dayton Moore.

Greinke chose not to discuss his decision to pass on the Nationals.

"He was a guy you would always love to have if the opportunity was there, and it wasn't there earlier on," Melvin said. "We didn't give up on it. I kept calling Dayton Moore. ...

"We knew it was going to be a costly trade. We gave up some very talented players. If I was in Dayton's seat, I would have selected the players he did, too. But we're getting a young pitcher, too. He's 27 years old with a Cy Young Award, and someone who's very energized to be in the postseason."

Melvin praised Greinke's athleticism and the way he fields his position and swings the bat. Greinke was looking forward to getting to run the bases and break up double plays, like he did in an Interleague game in Atlanta last year. He said he prefers the NL game.

"It's more fun that way," he said.

He's also looking forward to reuniting with a former youth baseball teammate in Fielder and an opponent in Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. All three players grew up in Orlando, and Greinke still sees Weeks throughout the winter.

There are still questions to be answered, like who gets the ball for the Brewers on Opening Day. Gallardo is the incumbent and was an All-Star in 2010, but Greinke has that Cy Young Award on his mantle. Manager Ron Roenicke left that question for another day.

There's also the question of whether the real Greinke is the guy who posted a Major League-best 2.16 ERA in 2009 with 242 strikeouts, or the one who posted a 4.17 ERA in 2010 and admitted to trouble staying focused amid another losing season.

"The deceiving part is you look at the ERA and it wasn't as good as the year before," Roenicke said. "Well, the year before was ridiculous. He has the ability to shut down a really good offense. That's the difference between the good pitchers and the great pitchers. The good pitchers, you hope they can hold them to two, three runs. The star-quality pitchers, they can shut out a really good offense."

Here's another question: Where does the Brewers' new starting five fit in with the rest of the league?

"It's hard to rank different rotations," Roenicke said. "We are really good. I don't want to rank them, but we are really good."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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