No surprise that Royals pitching coach Bob McClure is facing a big void in his rotation with Zack Greinke gone. But McClure also feels a personal loss for the guy he helped guide to the 2009 Cy Young Award.
McClure worked with Greinke over a five-year period and every Spring Training there seemed to be some project that the two men worked on. The spring before the Cy Young, for example, refining a changeup was the focus and it made a huge difference in Greinke’s game in ’09.
“I’ll miss him,” McClure said. “When you’ve been around somebody as long as we’ve been around each other and gone through a lot of things – ups and downs, goods and bads – part of you is kind of missing.”
McClure wasn’t all that surprised by Greinke’s great Cy Young season. He had given then-manager Trey Hillman a head’s-up.
“The year before you could kind of see it coming. I remember telling Trey about halfway through the season before the Cy Young that he’s about ready to pop, it’s about ready to happen,” McClure said. “You could just kind of tell. I’ve played with guys and had the same thing happen – when you just walk out there and know you’re going to beat somebody. Then he took into the next season it kind of snowballed.”
There were a lot of things going on with Greinke as his success slipped last year. He was trying to cope with all the demands that his Cy Young fame engendered, he was adjusting to married life, he increasingly became annoyed by the Royals’ slow progress toward contention. And there was something else.
“When you’re that competitive and you have a year like he did, you end up trying to do more maybe,” McClure said.
That’s what happened with Bret Saberhagen after his Cy Young season in 1985. He went from 20-6 to 7-12 the next year and later realized that he was just pressing to be Mr. Perfect in ’86 instead of just relaxing, enjoying the game and letting things flow naturally.
Although there were rumbles that, at times last year, Greinke was perceived as not being as competitive or as focused as he was in ’09, McClure brushed that off.
“When I talked to him between the lines and talked to him between innings, it was a little different than when he would talk before or after a game,” McClure said. “I think there were times when it got away from him a little bit and he got a little predictable and then two runs in that inning turned into four.”
Now Greinke is with Milwaukee where, perhaps, he’ll be as fortunate as McClure was in his playing days. McClure had a fine year as a starter for the Brewers in 1982 and wound up pitching in the World Series that year.