- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NEW YORK | When the phone rang, Zack Greinke let it go - he didn’t recognize the number. Only after listening to the voice mail did he call back and find out he had won the American League Cy Young Award.

The Kansas City Royals ace easily beat out Felix Hernandez for the honor Tuesday after a spectacular season short on wins but long on domination. Winning left the extremely shy Greinke with mixed emotions.

“Back in Orlando, I haven’t really got a whole lot of attention from people, which has been nice,” he said. “So I hope it doesn’t get that way, where everyone is like, ‘Oh, hey, Zack, hi.’ ”

He would prefer to remain anonymous when he’s not on the mound. He’s not looking forward to being introduced at banquets as “Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke” for the rest of his life.

“In that way, it’s kind of like a negative for me,” he said.

It has been quite a turnaround for Greinke, who led the AL in losses in 2005 and quit baseball for six weeks the following year after being diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder.

Greinke went 16-8 with a major league-low 2.16 ERA this season and received 25 of 28 first-place votes and three seconds for 134 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hernandez, 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA for the Seattle Mariners, drew two firsts, 23 seconds and one third for 80 points.

“I thought it was going to be real close between the two of us,” Greinke said.

Detroit’s Justin Verlander was third with the remaining first-place vote and 14 points, followed by the Yankees’ CC Sabathia (13) and Toronto’s Roy Halladay (11).

“Greinke deserved it. Before the season was over, I said my vote was for him,” Hernandez said in Venezuela.

“This has taught me that I need to be perfect, I will prepare myself to be stronger next season. I will need a superb year because just a good one, it’s not enough,” he said.

The NL winner will be announced Thursday.

Despite what he has overcome, Greinke doesn’t view himself as a role model.

“I really don’t like having a bunch of attention, so even if I did see myself in that light, I don’t do anything about it,” he said. “I’m real uncomfortable doing stuff like that, to be around people and doing stuff like that,” he said.

He fidgeted a bit and spoke softly during a series of telephone conference calls and a video linkup from a studio in Orlando, Fla.

Even before winning, this was sure to be a big week for Greinke. He is getting married Saturday to high school girlfriend Emily Kuchar, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and then is heading to Hawaii for a three-week honeymoon.

The 26-year-old right-hander was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft. He made his major league debut in 2004 and got hit hard the next year. After leaving spring training in February 2006 to combat his anxiety, he worked his way back to the majors by late September.

Greinke was 7-7 the following year and 13-10 in 2008 before his breakout season. Greinke’s ERA was the lowest in the AL since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 ERA in 2000, and his 242 strikeouts were second in the league behind Verlander.

He allowed just 11 home runs this year - nine solo and two with one man on, according to STATS LLC. His victory total matched that of Arizona’s Brandon Webb three years ago for the fewest by a starting pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in a nonshortened season and was the fewest by an AL starter to win in a full-length season.

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