PHOENIX – There had to be a premonition to Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Grienke’s approach to the All-Star game. All along, Greinke must have anticipated the honor of named to the National League squad and his sixth career All-Star selection, but always knew he would decline the invitation.
At the same time and given an eccentric temperament and desire for seclusion, there was little reason for Greinke to accept the offer. Foregoing that all-expense paid trip to Cleveland in mid-July may not be tempting, Greinke turned down the honor through his field manager Torey Lovullo, who told reporters Greinke declined for personal reasons.
Should Greinke accept the invitation and head to the Ohio city on Lake Erie with the rest of his National League mates, there was a question relative to his availability to start the game. Of his five previous selections, Greinke started the 2015 mid-summer classic in Cincinnati and pitched two innings in that game. When Greinke was named to the NL squad on June 30, Lovullo indicated a start in Cleveland would be appropriate and that was a reference to his career body of work.
Plus, Greinke has turned in one of his better seasons to date and enters the All-Star break with a 10-3 record and 2.73 ERA for 19 starts.
In the greater scheme, none of that mattered to Dave Roberts, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NL skipper in Cleveland. Meeting with reporters prior to the Dodgers-Diamondbacks in Dodger Stadium on July 1, Roberts emphatically announced that lefty Hyn-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers will start for the NL. In 17 starts this season, the native of Incheon, South Korea is 10-2 and his 1.73 ERA is lowest among all major league starters. For Roberts, the choice of Ryu was obvious.
“For me, it’s very easy,” Roberts told Fancred and other reporters. “Hyun-Jin has been the best pitcher in the National League for the entire season. For me, and having him be the National league starter is a no-brainer.”
Definitively, Lovullo made the case for Greinke, the season he is having and production over a 16-year career. To continue at a high level, Greinke reinvented himself in 2019 and developed an effective change. That makes his 89, 90 mile-per-hour fastball look faster and his pinpoint location is another factor for one of his strongest seasons. Roberts, for one, recognized Lovullo’s push and appreciated the drive to lobby for Greinke.
“There are ways to spin a lot of different things,” Roberts added. “That’s certainly a debate a manager can make for his player. Absolutely. You can’t debate what Zack has done in his career and the half he has had. I absolutely see that side. From the lens which I am coming from, you’re talking about the 2019 All-Star game and Hyun-Jin has been the best starter in the National League in 2019.”
With Greinke out in Cleveland, Ketel Marte remains the lone Arizona representative for the NL. While outfielder David Peralta remains on the disabled list, Marte is spending time in centerfield, but will start at second base and hit eighth in Roberts’ starting line-up. Starters in an All-Star game generally get two or three at-bats so Marte can expect to play about half the game. He will likely be replaced at the keystone bag by Mike Moustakas of Milwaukee.
On the National League roster, Greinke’s spot was taken by Felipe Vazquez, a right-handed closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.