The Brewers’ remade starting rotation will not begin the season intact. Zack Greinke cracked a rib playing basketball during the first week of Spring Training and will begin the regular season on the disabled list, club officials said Tuesday.
Greinke, Milwaukee’s biggest offseason addition and potential Opening Day starter, made two Cactus League starts with sore ribs before undergoing an MRI scan on Monday that revealed a hairline fracture of his seventh rib and a bone bruise on his eighth rib.
The normal recovery time is four to six weeks from the time of injury, Brewers head physician William Raasch said, meaning Greinke is already about two weeks into the healing process. But he will need time to re-build arm strength, so his rehab will almost certainly extend into April.
The Brewers can get by with four starters for all but three dates in April, according to general manager Doug Melvin.
Greinke was hurt when he fell after going up for a rebound.
“I’ve been doing this for a couple years now, and people are always saying, ‘You’re going to get hurt,’” he said. “It finally caught up to me.
“I was hoping it was just bruised, but I guess it’s worse than that. So I guess I have to stop playing [basketball] now. I had a lot of fun while I was doing it, but it wasn’t worth it.”
The Brewers sent four young players to the Royals for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in mid-December as part of a starting rotation makeover that sparked a run on season tickets and has many of the team’s core players talking about making a run in the National League Central.
Now the start to his Milwaukee tenure will be delayed, if only slightly.
“We’re not talking about this gross deformed fracture,” Raasch said. “We’re talking about something very subtle that we can barely see, and we found it on the MRI. We’re not that concerned about it, except the fact that it’s bad timing. He’s got a sore rib because he fell on it, and unfortunately you stress your ribs when you throw baseballs hard. …
“You have to understand that as it’s healing, we’re going to progress him and allow him to do more and more things. The ideal situation is that after a week or two [from Tuesday] he’ll feel real good, hopefully, and we’ll start the throwing program in two weeks and build him up.”
The injury is so subtle, Raasch said, that x-rays did not reveal the fracture.
“Let’s put it this way: If this was the playoffs, he’d just be throwing with it. … He wants to progress, and our job is to sacrifice a few games now so he can pitch into the postseason.”