Greinke was effective but offense remains dormant

SAN DIEGO — Right-hander Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks is smart enough to figure out his own fate. Inventing baseball survival during his Age of Diminishing Returns, Greinke, at 36-years-old, clearly lost velocity on his fastball and movement on his curve. To Greinke’s future in the game, that does not pretend well.

Always meticulous in preparation and formulation of game plan, Greinke has taken upon himself to change and alter his approach. To be successful, here in his mid-30s, Greinke is in the dramatic process of reinventing himself, and the results have been encouraging.

On Tuesday night in Petco Park, Grienke continued to shape and craft his future. The issue was lack of offense and the Diamondbacks appear to be a deep, offensive funk.

Despite dropping a 3-2 decision to the San Diego Padres before 19,969, Greinke came out of the trainer’s table into the record book. That was reaching a career strikeout milestone but, for now, his ability to alter technique and execution continues to defy his age.

From a team perspective, Arizona dropped its fourth in a row and eight and their last 11 games. For the two games here in San Diego, the Diamondbacks have three runs and 10 hits to cover the last 18 innings.

“We are a better baseball team than we have shown the last few days,” manager Torey Lovullo told Fancred after Tuesday’s loss. “These guys will turn it around. We have a very good offensive team but we’re putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers. We’re not building innings like we can and not having the big innings like we were.”

If the offense is having difficulty gaining traction, Greinke continues to give his team a chance to win. Only a few days ago, there was a question whether Greinke would lose a turn. Relative to his efficiency in Petco Park Tuesday night was the effect of an abdominal strain sustained in his previous start last Wednesday against Pittsburgh. At first thought, Greinke might miss a turn or more but an MRI was clean and Greinke was pronounced ready for the Padres.

That peek into the record turned out into a sidebar on an otherwise unproductive night. When Greinke struck out Franmil Reyes in the fourth, he recorded his 2,500th career strikeout but provided little consolation.  Because his fastball rarely touches 90 miles-per-hour these days, Grienke was forced to develop out pitches and pinpoint location within and outside of the strike zone. In the current stage of his career, Greinke has developed an effective changeup and that pitch has hit the radar screen with a range of velocity between 75 and 85 miles-per-hour.

All of which caught the attention of the opposition, but hitters have not found a consistent way to solve Greinke.

“(Greinke) has developed a good changeup which spins out of his hand,” San Diego manager Andy Green told Fancred. “It’s a kind of power spin and has a great bite. The changeup has worked very well for him.”

That is, until Greinke made one mistake Tuesday and that ended his personal six-game winning streak. That came in the sixth inning when he did not locate a fastball to Eric Hosmer, who drilled the first pitch he saw into the left-field stands. His bomb, with Manny Machado on first, was the game-winner and sent the Diamondbacks to their third consecutive one-run loss.

In the trainer’s room …

Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Diamondbacks placed infielder Wilmer Flores on the DL with a contusion of the right foot. At the time of his injury, Flores was hitting .281 in 42 games. To replace Flores, the Diamondbacks recalled infielder Ildemaro Vargas from Triple AAA Reno.

Elsewhere, left fielder David Peralta left Tuesday’s game in the fifth inning. Peralta suffered the effects of a right shoulder injury sustained during the recent homestand. After the game, Lovullo told reporters Peralta is considered day-to-day.

A tweak …

One day after there was no affirmation to scramble his rotation, Lovullo changed his personnel.

Speaking to reporters before Tuesday night’s game in Petco Park, Lovullo announced he altered the rotation, and moved Robbie Ray to open a series against the Giants in San Francisco on Friday night. Despite days-off built into the schedule, Lovullo has been firm in keeping his five-man rotation in order.

Now with Zack Godley banished to the bullpen and the need for a fifth starter, Ray will move up and go on a normal five-day rest pattern. That said, Lovullo pointed out that gap in the rotation will be filled on Saturday.

“We have some flexibility with the off-day,” Lovullo told Fancred. “For Saturday, we haven’t figured out who that will be. We’re trying to maximize the opportunity and situation the best so we can win that game. Who that is and where it lands will give us the best chance to win game two in that series.”

At this point, two pitchers at Triple AAA Reno have been the most discussed. In weighing whether Jon Duplaniter or Taylor Clarke, both right-handers, will pitch on Saturday, Lovullo would not commit. Plus, the issue of stretching out Duplaniter is also paramount. Lovullo indicated Duplaniter has barely reached 60 pitches and, at this point, Lovullo and Mike Butcher, the Arizona pitching coach, would like an effort reaching 100 pitches.

Don’t ask me …

With a starter in desperate need, lefty Dallas Keuchel remains in the marketplace.

Once a coveted left-hander, interest in Keuchel has not wavered but his agent Scott Boras tends to drive difficult negotiations. A Cy Young Award winner in 2015, Keuchel went 20-8 that year with a 2.48 ERA and struck out 216 hitters in 232.0 innings. For his seven-year major career, Keuchel, at 31-years-old, has a lifetime mark of 76-63 and a 3.66 ERA.

Of course, Keuchel is attractive to the Diamondbacks and with most teams. At this point, Keuchel could seek a one-year deal for 2019. If he signs after June 5, the conclusion of the MLB draft, there is no draft compensation. If he signed after June 5, he would not be subjected to a qualifying offer for next season. A qualifying offer does include draft compensation.

The issue of reaching out to Keuchel was asked during Lovullo’s pre-game session with reporters Tuesday night and his answer was swift and direct.

“These are things that are so far over my head that I don’t even pay attention,” Lovullo said. “That might be a question for (general manager) Mike (Hazen). I will say this. Our front office is the best in the game. They are dialed into everything that is available and will make us better. So, I don’t much know about it other than that. I know (Keuchel) is available, but it’s so out of my box that I can’t even comment on it.”

Next …

The series against San Diego concludes with a Wednesday matinee in Petco Park. Look for right-hander Merrill Kelly (4-4, 4.21 ERA) to face Padres’ lefty Eric Lauer (2-4, 5.24).

Then, it’s on to San Francisco for three and three with the Rockies in Denver. The Diamondbacks return to Chase Field on Friday, May 31 and a six-game homestand. First up are the New York Mets for three and three with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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