Brewers react to 'tough' loss of Greinke

Brewers react to 'tough' loss of Greinke

Brewers react to 'tough' loss of Greinke
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They were careful not to criticize Zack Greinke for being injured on the basketball court and not the baseball field, but Brewers teammates could not hide their disappointment Wednesday that the team's prized offseason pickup will begin the season on the disabled list.

Greinke revealed Tuesday that he cracked a rib playing basketball last month, and club officials are planning for him to miss a handful of regular-season starts.

"It's tough. It is," said Yovani Gallardo, suddenly the team's clear favorite to start Opening Day. "It's very harmful, because you want to have a pitcher like that out there every start. But we have a lot of guys here with great talent. We're going to go out there and work harder until he comes back and joins us.

"It's a little disappointing for all of us, but I think we all do things that [carry] risk."

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Greinke said he fell after going up to grab a rebound in a pickup basketball game during the first week of Spring Training. He'd made two Cactus League appearances with discomfort on the left side of his rib cage before an MRI scan on Monday revealed a hairline fracture.

He was honest with club officials about the cause of his injury from the start, manager Ron Roenicke said. But asked whether he was nonetheless irritated that his star pitcher was hurt playing hoops, Roenicke answered, "Of course."

"I've thought about it," Roenicke said. "These guys, they're the best athletes in the world. The reason they are is they think they're invincible, and they really push the limit. They don't play safe. When you have that type of personality, there's times where they're in a situation and they don't think about getting hurt. You don't start to think that way until you get older, and with experience, you see it happen to other people, or it happens to yourself.

"Until those two things happen, they're invincible."

Roenicke said his own brother, Gary, was part of the Orioles' famous offseason basketball program. Players would practice at Cal Ripken Jr.'s home gym and actually played against other teams.

Nowadays, such competitive leagues are outlawed in player contracts. But Greinke didn't violate that clause because he was hurt in a pickup game, general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And Roenicke said ultra-competitive athletes like Greinke need offseason outlets "for their sanity."

"Once you get to camp, that stuff should stop," Roenicke said.

Gallardo was not the only teammate who argued that players can just as easily get hurt playing baseball as playing with their kids, or, as fellow starter Shaun Marcum said, letting loose a sneeze.

"Any time you lose Zack Greinke for one game or three games -- we don't know how long it's going to be -- that's not something we planned on," Marcum said. "We've still got a good team in here. He'll definitely be missed for those starts, but we'll find a way to pick him up, and when he comes back, we'll be that much better. ... It wouldn't surprise me if he's back out there sooner than expected."

"Things like that can happen to anyone," Gallardo said. "It could happen to me. It could happen to any of the starters. ... I'm sure that if he knew something was going to happen, he wouldn't have played [basketball]."

Greinke said he'd been playing for several years and had been warned by friends that he was taking a risk.

Now the Brewers will have to find a new fifth starter for at least three games in April to go with Gallardo, Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. The in-house candidates include top pitching prospect Mark Rogers, who has yet to pitch in a game because of early spring shoulder tightness but said he should be ready for the first date the Brewers would need him: April 6 against the Braves at Miller Park.

Other options include prospects Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas, or organizational veteran Tim Dillard. Left-hander Manny Parra was supposed to be the team's go-to guy for this situation, but he's been slowed by back stiffness and just re-started a throwing program on Wednesday. He is on track for the Opening Day roster, Roenicke said, but not as a starter.

The Opening Day nod will almost certainly go to Gallardo, who was already a candidate with Greinke when all five starters were healthy.

Gallardo started last season's Brewers opener against the Rockies but said he wasn't thinking about taking the ball again.

"You just never know what else can happen," he said. "The only thing I'm doing now is keep moving forward and get my pitch count up. We'll see what the decision is."

Said left fielder Ryan Braun: "There's no doubt we already had a No. 1 with Yovani."

"We're not going to allow this to deter us from what we want to accomplish," Braun added. "Obviously, we're disappointed. We would have liked to have him healthy for the whole season. But there's nothing we can do about it now. We can't go back and change anything.

"Our focus moving forward is finding somebody else to step up and seize the opportunity that is being presented. This isn't going to deter us from anything."

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.