Greinke looks like best in baseball
Royals pitcher off to unbelievable start to 2009 season
KANSAS CITY -- The question was put to Zack Greinke after his latest tour de force: Are you the best pitcher in baseball right now?
"No," Greinke replied. "I think Johan [Santana] and Roy Halladay are the two best pitchers without a doubt."
Well, maybe he's third-best?
"No, you've got to do it for at least three years," Greinke said. "That's my thing -- three years and you can put your name on stuff like that."
OK, call him in a year or so, because the Royals' prodigious right-hander is putting together his second straight successful season. He was a pretty polished 13-10 with a gleaming 3.47 ERA last year.
Now, he's got enough glitter to blind folks: 6-0, 0.40 ERA, 54 strikeouts -- all bests in the Major Leagues.
After Greinke's 3-0 victory over Chicago on Monday night, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was effusive in his praise.
"It doesn't surprise me what he's doing right now at all," Guillen said, "because he's that good. He's been good for a long time. Now he believes in himself.
"To me, he's the best in the league right now."
One remarkable statistic from Greinke's sixth victory was this: Even though he struck out 10 batters, he threw a total of only 104 pitches. He walked none.
"That's really hard to do," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Strikeout pitchers typically run their pitch counts higher."
Increasingly, Greinke's success helps cast a glow on the Royals in their entirety. After all, they're in first place in the American League Central -- now by 1 1/2 games over the Tigers -- and there might be a stampede building in Cowtown.
Greinke picked up a positive sign on Sunday from veteran right fielder Jose Guillen.
"Guillen pulled me aside yesterday [and said], 'OK, let's show the White Sox tomorrow. Show them that we're for real this year, not just like years past,'" Greinke said. "He got me excited a little bit. Guillen can feel it obviously, too, that we just don't want to roll over like we used to do."
The Royals have a 15-11 record, and maybe those rumblings about improvement in 2009 were more than just idle speculation.
"Right from the get-go, everyone thought we had a chance to do something this year," Greinke said. "I'm sure a lot of people don't think we were playing that good in the first month, and we had a winning month. And we're finally starting to play good, it feels like."
The fans certainly responded with a big walkup response to Greinke's start. The Royals announced that 6,515 tickets were sold after the gates opened, swelling the crowd of 21,843 -- impressive for a Monday night.
"I'm thrilled to death for the players," Hillman said. "I'm thrilled to death for the fans to have something to get this excited about."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.