KCUR News
1:32 pm
Tue November 17, 2009

Zack Greinke Overcomes Social Anxiety Disorder To Win Cy Young Award

Kansas City, MO – Update: Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals has won the American League Cy Young Award, the highest individual honor for a pitcher. Greinke was the Royals number-1 pick out of high school, but three years ago a social disorder almost ended his career. This year, Greinke had the type of season that had long been predicted.

When Zack Greinke pitched at Kauffman Stadium this year, the Royals drew an average of 8,000 more fans a game.

Greinke provided the season's brightest moments for Royals fans. He finished with a 16-8 record for a team that lost 97 games and tied for last. Greinke led the major leagues in earned run average and was second in the American League in strikeouts.

He got off to a sensational start with a 5-0 record In April. That start prompted a cover story in Sports Illustrated, which proclaimed him "The Best Pitcher in Baseball," a label he wasn't comfortable with.

Greinke: " You've got to do it for three years. That's my thing. Three years and then you can put your name in stuff like that."

He has since called the Sports Illustrated coverage nonsense. And referred to all the talk about the Cy Young Award at the end of the season as "annoying." But considering that three years ago Greinke unexpectedly left spring training with no certainty about his future, his feelings are understandable.

That year it was later determined that Greinke was suffering from social anxiety disorder. The Royals didn't bring him back to the big leagues until September of 2006. He made only three major league appearances on the mound, all in relief. Luckily for Greinke and the Royals, there's treatment.

Dr. Rory Murphy has been in the field of psychiatry for 20 years with a private practice in Leawood.

Dr. Rory Murphy: "I work with patients who have social anxiety disorder on a daily basis."

Murphy says typically treatment is either medication, therapy or both. He says Greinke's tendency to deflect public attention seems to point to one of the symptoms of his disorder.

Murphy: "As a matter of fact, I saw a young man in my office today who suffers from social phobia. In high school he was a gifted athlete and he was telling me that he used to receive a lot of praise for his accomplishments and he hated it. He wished that no one noticed or pay attention to him, let alone remark about it or talk to him about it."

That's not to say Greinke didn't enjoy some of his biggest moments of the year. When he was on an early roll, the team was winning. After pitching a shutout against a divisional rival, the Chicago White Sox on May 4th, Greinke acknowledged the excitement that was building.

Greinke "The biggest difference was probably the fans. They were great today. The White Sox was the second biggest reason. It was just a lot of fun."

But when the team went south, it wasn't as fun. Frequently, such as the 2-0 loss to Texas in July, Greinke pitched well enough to win, but the team didn't score any runs to back him up.

At that time, the team was in the midst of a 10-game losing streak.

Greinke: I mean, we're better than some of the teams we're facing, and we're not just getting it done.

But on the mound he didn't let up. He set a Royals record for strikeouts in a game with 15 on August 25 against Cleveland. Then in his next start, he pitched a one-hitter against Seattle.

Greinke's pitching resume' is impressive. But so are the season credentials of Toronto's Roy Halladay and New York's CC Sabathia.

Nevertheless, Dr. Murphy and his colleagues in the field of psychiatry have become some of Greinke's biggest fans.

Murphy: Well, I've heard this kind of talk, not just with colleagues but throughout the town with my golf buddies and others. I think we're all pulling for him and hoping he will win. But, yeah, especially given the circumstances."

The votes were submitted after the regular season. The results of those
votes will be announced Tuesday, November 17.