MILWAUKEE — It was a move everyone in the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse had expected for several days, an inevitable change that had been in the back of the minds of players for even longer than that.
But as Brewers manager Ron Roenicke informed his team before Friday’s win over the Washington Nationals that ace pitcher Zack Greinke had been traded, that change had finally come.
A tweet from relief pitcher John Axford appropriately depicted one emotion that swept the Brewers clubhouse soon after Greinke’s exit had become official. “In the words of Lloyd Christmas,” Axford tweeted, “I hate goodbyes! #ZackWillBeMissed.” The picture was of Greinke flashing an awkward smile, hugged by five of his teammates.
But there was another prevailing emotion that came with Greinke’s departure — that of relief. Obviously, the Brewers know Greinke won’t be easily replaced as a true ace in their rotation. But with so much trade speculation swirling around the team and Greinke for weeks on end, the deal brought a sense of closure to a situation that had seemed inevitable for a while before Friday.
“It’s nice that it’s over,” first baseman Corey Hart said. “It’s all we’ve been talking about lately. We saw it coming. We’re not playing well enough to keep a guy like that, especially when he can bring in some good pieces. Everybody is talking about the guys we got back in return … hopefully they’re here soon.”
That realistic attitude was prevalent among many of the Brewers’ players after the game Friday. To a man, they claimed the Greinke trade — the Brewers received highly touted Double-A prospects shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers Ariel Pena and John Hellweg — was just a part of the game that they had gotten used to, “the business of baseball.”
During the week that the rumors had swirled the most, veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez said he tried his best to separate himself from the speculation and keep his mind on what was happening on the field. Like Hart, he understands that a team in Milwaukee’s position in the division — 14 games back entering Friday night’s play — is bound to explore trades.
“I’ve been around for a while, and I know that when you’re not playing good and you have a few pieces that teams might need, that’s always going to happen,” Ramirez said, referring to the trade. “But you can’t let that affect your play.”
With news of the Greinke trade fresh, the Brewers snapped a seven-game losing streak with a shutout of the NL’s top team.
It was a performance Roenicke was proud of, considering the circumstances.
“I think with all of them knowing what happened with Zack before the game, we did a nice job concentrating,” Roenicke said. “They knew something may happen with Zack, so it’s not really a shock to them, but any time you lose one of your main guys, it changes the feeling about things.”
But for now, that change in feelings hasn’t affected the Brewers’ outlook on this season. Even catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who’s locker was next to Greinke’s and had become a good friend of the Brewers ace, was practical about the situation.
He pointed to the performance of young pitchers this season as a sign for optimism, as well as the three players the Brewers received in return for Greinke — a group that could spell a bright future for Milwaukee’s organization.
“Everybody kind of expected this, so it was just one of those things,” Lucroy said. “I think everybody understood the business side of the game. We were sad to see him go, but on the other side of that, we got three pretty good players in return and we’re just being realistic about the situation. That’s all you can do.”
Added Hart: “If you’re not going to be able to keep him, might as well go get guys that can help for a long time. The guys we got, I feel like they can help.”