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    What is in store for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017?

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    D-Backs’ Robbie Ray says he’s ready for start of season

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  • Shelby Miller strikes out 8 vs. Mariners

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  • D-Backs' Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers

    D-Backs’ Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers

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    Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session

  • Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox

    Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox

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    Shelby Miller discusses latest start

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    D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres

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    Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs

  • Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres

    Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres

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    Robbie Ray on his spring training debut

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    Spring training story lines to watch

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    Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut

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    MLB changing intentional walks for 2017

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    Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen

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    MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017

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    MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation

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    Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses team’s lawsuit

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    Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day

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Right-hander Zack Greinke will deliver the first pitch of the Diamondbacks’ season on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. It will be accompanied by glances upward, where the boards at Chase Field display velocity readings.

A year ago, Greinke was viewed as a sort of rotation savior upon his arrival in Arizona. The start of his second season with the Diamondbacks has a different feel. He is 33 years old and coming off a disappointing year, and his six-year, $206.5 million deal looks like it could become an albatross, if it isn’t one already.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the matter of the radar gun. Throughout spring training, Greinke exhibited fastball velocity two to three miles per hour below where it was at times last season.

It makes for an interesting storyline to the start of his 2017 season: Can he throw harder, perhaps aided by adrenaline from pitching in games that count? And if not, can he succeed despite the diminished velocity?

“You look at Zack, and he’s a pitcher,” Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher said. “He’s always been able to spin the ball well. He’s always been able to change speeds really well. And he’s been able to locate well.

“More than anything else, it’s not as much about velocity with him as it is commanding the baseball. He knows how to pitch. That’s what we’re going to rely on, that he knows how to pitch. He’s proven that over the years. He’s been very, very good at it. I think he’s going to continue to go down that path.”

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Butcher’s opinion doesn’t seem to be too different from many around the game. Greinke is renowned for his pitching IQ. He has never been overly reliant on his fastball, and, perhaps most important, he possesses good command and secondary pitches. Many seem to believe that if anyone is capable of adjusting, it’s him.

Right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who is making a comeback with the Cincinnati Reds this season, doesn’t know Greinke but said he believes from watching him pitch that he’ll be fine. That said, Arroyo says there are limitations to most pitchers’ potential dominance without an above-average fastball.

“The only thing I would say is, to put up a 2.50 ERA throwing 88 miles an hour vs. 93 is a totally different ballgame,” Arroyo said. “I’m not saying you can’t win 20. You can. You can still put up 24 quality starts. You can. But to put up a 2.50 ERA and do some of the things he’s done in his career, it’s much, much harder to do without that little extra velo.”

Arroyo would know. Never a hard thrower, his velocity has ticked down throughout his career, and he’s been able to have success with a fastball in the 87-88 mph range.

“There’s a little less margin for error when you really need to go to the well and get those two big punchouts,” Arroyo said. “Sometimes you won’t be able to get it because you just can’t overwhelm guys like you used to.”

Of the 2,503 pitches Greinke threw last season, 1,280 were fastballs. And of those fastballs, nearly half, 635, were 92 mph or harder. He threw four pitches at 95 mph, 29 at 94 mph, 165 at 93 mph.

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According to data available from his six starts in spring training – three in the Cactus League, two against World Baseball Classic teams and one against Diamondbacks minor leaguers – Greinke never once threw a pitch that reached as high as 92 mph. He topped out just short, at 91.9 mph. His fastball in spring training mostly sat in the 89-90 mph range.

After his second spring start, Greinke called the velocity “not ideal,” and hoped he would add more as camp progressed. One start later, he told a reporter he wasn’t interested in discussing his velocity every time out.

Greinke’s results this season are important for the Diamondbacks on multiple fronts. For one, it’s hard to imagine them contending in the National League West without him returning to form. And if they don’t contend, the Diamondbacks might begin a rebuild of sorts; if he’s effective, trading Greinke might be possible, though the club would still likely have to eat a huge portion of his remaining salary.

Greinke is coming off a season in which his numbers fell off in most major categories, either when compared to his incredible 2015 season, to the previous three seasons or to his career averages entering the year. Perhaps most alarming was his home run rate; he gave up 1.3 homers per nine innings, which would have tied for the sixth-worst in the league if he had enough innings to qualify.

Whether he can improve on those numbers, with or without his fastball of old, remains an open question.

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Sunday’s game

Giants at Diamondbacks

When: 1:10 p.m.

Where: Chase Field (Roof hotline: 602-462-6262).

Pitchers: Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (13-7, 4.37)* vs. Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74)*.

TV/Radio: FSAZ, ESPN 2/KMVP-FM (98.7), KHOV-FM (105.1).

*Stats from 2016

Greinke struggled at Chase Field last season, posting a 4.81 ERA in 13 starts. … He threw well against the Giants, with a 3.28 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, going at least six innings in each of his four starts against them. … The Diamondbacks went 16-10 in his starts. … Bumgarner has a 2.80 ERA in 86 2/3 innings in his career at Chase Field. … He faced the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Opening Day in 2015, giving up just one run in seven innings to earn the victory. … In 25 innings in the Cactus League, Bumgarner had a 2.52 ERA with five walks and 23 strikeouts.

Coming up

Monday: Off.

Tuesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15)* vs. Giants RHP Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79)*.

Wednesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22)* vs. Giants LHP Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08)*.

Thursday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (8-15, 4.90)* vs. Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (12-11, 3.81)*.

Up next

San Francisco Giants

Giants update: The Giants are coming off a 2016 season that had an uneven feel to it, but they still managed to win 87 games, advance out of the wild card game and reach the division series, where they lost in four games to the Chicago Cubs. They’re bringing back mostly the same group of position players they’ve had in recent years, including C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence and SS Brandon Crawford, and have added RHP Mark Melancon as their closer, though the bullpen took a hit this spring with the loss of LHP Will Smith, who underwent Tommy John surgery and is done for the year. They’re going to continue to count on a strong starting staff, led by LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto.

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