MILWAUKEE As the baseball world swirled for weeks with trade rumors involving Milwaukee pitcher Zack Greinke, the Brewers' clubhouse remained relatively mum in regard to one of the trade deadline's most discussed commodities.
But on Thursday, it was clear that dynamic has changed. A television in the clubhouse prominently featured two analysts discussing potential trade destinations for the Brewers ace as his teammates looked on.
Most of all, however, it was a statement from general manager Doug Melvin that seemed to give Greinke's teammates the realization that their ace is indeed on his way out of town.
"We're taking phone calls," Melvin told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee on Thursday morning. "We've been working here. I'm in the office in the war room already. It's a busy week. At this point, we have to listen to opportunities to improve the ballclub for the future and still try to win ballgames now."
The sheer honesty of Melvin's statement surprised catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who returned to the Brewers on Thursday after being out of the lineup with a broken hand for two months. Obviously, players had heard the rumors for weeks now, but Melvin's statement added a legitimacy to the rumors that Lucroy hadn't expected.
"That surprised me," Lucroy said. "Obviously, with Doug, there's a method to the madness. Doug knows what he's doing. If trading Zack means helping us as a team and an organization, then that's what he's going to do. You have to do what you have to do to survive. Right now, we're hanging on, trying to survive to live another day."
Greinke occupies the locker next to the Milwaukee catcher, and they talk quite a bit. Even their wives have become friends, Lucroy said. So the situation hits home a little more with Lucroy than with other players. He's not eager to embrace a future without Greinke in the team's rotation.
"He's done a lot for this organization in the short time that he's been here," Lucroy said. "You really can't replace a pitcher of his caliber. You can't. You can't do it. Losing him is obviously going to hurt, but we have to move on, and like I said, worry about the guys here and try to win games."
The Brewers catcher did mention, however, that he believes Greinke could "absolutely" return as a free agent in the offseason, even if he were to be traded. The Brewers may not be able to match the cash other teams will throw at Greinke, but Lucroy isn't giving up hope.
"I really honestly think so," Lucroy insisted. "I know he likes it here. Whatever happens, he could come back. You never know. It's up to him. It's baseball, you never know what happens."
The real question, after the inevitable Greinke trade happens, is how the rest of the Brewers will respond to the move, considering a blockbuster involving Greinke likely would have been put on hold if Milwaukee believed it had a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.
But Brewers reliever John Axford said Thursday that he doesn't think a trade would amount to a waving a white flag for the remainder of the 2012 season. In fact, he believes such a move could dramatically lower the amount of stress players have put on themselves in the past month.
"It's difficult to expect certain mentalities out of certain people, but for some, maybe it'll even feel like a stress people have been feeling (is lifted)," Axford said. "And maybe now it's carefree baseball. You never really know. Things can turn around the way. Obviously, if something like that happens with Zack we're definitely going to miss him here.
"It's not the style of guys here to just give up. There are too many guys here that care so much about this organization and care so much about this team, it doesn't matter who's here, who's not here, we're still going to fight. We're still going to go after it for the last two months."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he wasn't sure how players would react to a trade of the Milwaukee ace, but he explained that Greinke's potential exit isn't the only one on the minds of many in the Brewers' clubhouse.
Players like Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Randy Wolf, Francisco Rodriguez, and George Kottaras who was designated for assignment on Thursday have all been mentioned in trade rumors. Although some of those players are unlikely to be sent out of town, the rumors will continue to swirl until next Tuesday's deadline has passed.
"It's hard to say," Roenicke said. (Greinke's) not the only one that feels like, 'There's a possibility that I may be with somebody else.' So there's a few guys that are thinking that way, and you have to go about your business and realize that none of this is personal. It's a decision that we're trying to make this club the best club we possibly can with what we have not just now, but in the future. Those decisions are out of their hands."
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