Royals plan to start season without Greinke

Updated: February 27, 2006, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Kansas City Royals had hoped to build future pitching staffs around 22-year-old Zack Greinke, but they are not planning on him being in the rotation when this season starts on April 3.

Zack Greinke

Greinke left camp on Sunday with the club's permission to return to his home in Orlando, Fla., but it is unknown when he will return.

"We're going about it, quite frankly, that Zack is not going to be here in time to get ready for the rotation," Royals manager Buddy Bell said Monday. "We pretty much are preparing for the worst right now. That could change. I don't think it will."

General manager Allard Baird said there "is no timetable" for Greinke's return, which could jeopardize his chances of making the staff out of spring training.

"It affects it a lot, depending when he can comeback," Bell said. "If he would come back tomorrow, which isn't going to be the case, there's no issue."

Bell said Greinke, who led the American League with 17 losses in 2005, would need to get back here "in time to get in shape and show he can get people out" to start on April 14, when the Royals would first need a fifth starter.

"Quite honestly, I think that is a long shot," Bell said.

Baird said there could still be time for Greinke to make the rotation.

"If he left March 15, that would be a different story," Baird said. "We haven't played a game yet. No pitcher has pitched a pitch yet in a game, so to me that does not factor in. The most important thing for us right now really is for him to take care of the personal matter. Everything else is secondary."

Baird would not disclose the reason.

"I will tell you that right now, it is not drugs," Baird said. "He didn't get kicked out of camp or anything like that. ... To me, it is a personal matter."

Greinke was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 draft out of Apopka (Fla.) High and was selected the national baseball player of the year. He made his major league debut on May 22, 2004 at the age of 20 years, 7 months, 1 day. Only Bret Saberhagen and Mark Littell were younger when they made their first Royals' starts.

With a 95-mph fastball and a 55-mph breaking ball, he often drew comparisons to Saberhagen. He went 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 2004. But he had a rough 2005, going 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press