Zack Greinke is renewing acquaintances during his highly anticipated return to Los Angeles this week. Alas, he is not starting in L.A.

This is purely a social visit for the man who opted out of his Dodgers deal and signed a whopping six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the winter. His ex-teammates will find themselves on the business end of his pitches somewhere down the line this summer—and yes, when that happens, it sure will be different.

“It will be really weird,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis says. “It already is really weird seeing him on TV wearing a different uniform.

“It was great to see him this spring. He was a great friend to so many of us while he was here. And he was a great teammate.”

What is far weirder than the sight of Greinke wearing a Diamondbacks uniform is that 9.90 ERA stuck next to his name. Two starts into the season, Greinke has struggled.

Last year, his ERA never even climbed into the 2.00s. His season high in 2015 was 1.97, last June 2. Talk about a stark difference. His next chance at his first victory for Arizona will come Friday in San Diego.

“I guess it could have gone worse, but it’s been pretty bad,” Greinke told reporters after the Chicago Cubs cuffed him for four earned runs and seven hits in six innings during Chicago’s 4-2 win in the desert over the weekend. “I should do better.”

That his 2016 numbers would inflate after last season’s sublime run was one of the most predictable things about this summer. The thin desert air is far more friendly to hitters than to pitchers. Still, given who he is, Greinke should—and will—find his footing.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, look forward to their inevitable meeting with him.

“It’s always cool to get a hit off of one of your ex-teammates, for bragging rights,” Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford says. “I was surprised he left, because he was so close to Clayton Kershaw.”

There are few surprises in free agency, because money speaks loudly. And for a marquee player like Greinke, you never know when the next Brink’s truck will show up in the driveway. The Dodgers thought they had him at one point during the winter when negotiations reached the “1-yard line,” according to Bleacher Report sources.

Greinke‘s agent, Casey Close, essentially was working with the Dodgers on the final, specific details of what would have been a five-year agreement when Arizona unexpectedly called. A couple of hours later, working under the parameters of a six-year deal with the Diamondbacks, the split with L.A. was sudden and complete.

“Players that earn the right to become a free agent get to make whatever they feel is the best decision for them and their family,” Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, says. “Different people handle it different ways. There is no right or wrong answer.

“This is what he felt made the most sense for him and his family, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The Dodgers have fond memories of their famously quirky former ace. That part of Greinke still elicits big smiles from his former teammates, many of whom still have a favorite among his many, many eccentricities.

“Probably the way he sits on the bench when he’s not pitching, but watching games,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner says, grinning. “He crosses his legs underneath himself. It is so unorthodox.

“Every day coming out of the tunnel into the dugout before a game and seeing that, it was funny to me.”

Says Ellis: “Never knowing whether there was music on when he had his headphones on. You never knew if he was listening to music or not, but you knew he didn’t want to talk.”

“I love the fact that he always gives his honest opinion, and he’s always asking you for your honest opinion,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez says. “I always prefer that to someone who says something to you, and then something else behind your back.

“That’s not a good teammate. With Zack, he tells you right out. Nothing is said behind your back.”

Though he only spent one year with Greinke, Friedman agrees with Gonzalez.

“Just the fact that he didn’t have a filter, it was really refreshing,” Friedman says. “A lot of guys are really premeditated with what they say. I could count on 100 percent honesty from him at all times. It was great.

“It was great dialogue back and forth. I have a lot of respect for what he does to prepare himself, both mentally and physically. I think it’s something that is a little unique among baseball players.”

After this week, the Dodgers don’t play the Diamondbacks again until mid-June, when they travel to Arizona. The Diamondbacks don’t return to Dodger Stadium until July 29-31. So after this week’s hellos, it will be a while before their businesses intersect.

“I always feel like the pitcher has the advantage, no matter what,” Gonzalez says. “Obviously, we haven’t faced him in a long time. It’s all about the unknown. You don’t know what his pitch selection is going to be.

“With really good pitchers, it’s their job to make you go 0-for-3 or 0-for-4. You get a hit, you’ve won.”

Turner, the former Met, ran into similarly awkward situations when the Dodgers played New York in 2014, which was the third baseman’s first season in Los Angeles. Facing his old minor league roommate Matt Harvey was especially entertaining for him.

“It was definitely fun facing all of the Mets guys,” Turner says. “You know what they throw so well. And the competitiveness. You want to beat them.”

Assuming he’s finished wobbling by the time he faces the Dodgers and is back to his regular, dominating self, the thing with Greinke is, he brings so many weapons. And not all of them are obvious.

“The one thing I’m worried about when we face him is his offense,” Ellis says of a former teammate who hit .249 in 185 at-bats with the Dodgers. “I’ll spend more time looking at that, and how to stop him, rather than how to prepare to hit against him.”

By then, assuming Greinke is back in rhythm, preparing to hit against him can be everybody else’s problem.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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