Lohse returns to warm reception in St. Louis
After Friday's strong showing, veteran visited with former teammates and manager
ST. LOUIS -- A day after starting against his former club, Kyle Lohse, wearing his new Brewers pullover, was invited into the Cardinals' clubhouse to visit with teammates and manager Mike Matheny prior to Saturday's game.
Though Lohse went through the free-agent process this winter without hearing from the Cardinals' front office, the right-hander said several of his teammates did stay in touch. He surmised that much of that communication was dictated by sincere interest in his free-agent plight. In some instances, though, he wondered if information about what type of deal he was seeking was being relayed to the front office.
Lohse said he was aware last summer -- when the Cardinals extended the contract of Jake Westbrook after never initiating such talks with him -- that the organization was not going to pursue him over the winter. The only opportunity he had to return for a sixth season in St. Louis closed when Lohse declined the one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer the Cardinals made in November.
The Cardinals never expected Lohse to accept the one-year deal but made the offer in order to secure an extra first-round Draft pick. Lohse said that even in retrospect, he did not regret turning down the qualify offer.
"It makes me look bad, [because] that's a lot of money. But is it fair value for what I had done? No," Lohse said. "Even going back on it, I'd still do the same thing. You have to go out and take your chances. Now, going forward, I don't know what other people in my situation are going to do. That's why I say that new ruling -- the way it is -- will affect the free-agent market. I could be completely wrong, but I think more teams are going to offer guys similar to me that [qualifying] offer, because even though it's a lot of money for one year, it's way cheaper than signing free agents, and you can keep people on a year-to-year deal instead of signing them to a multi-year deal."
In the end, Lohse signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Brewers in late March. Seven million dollars of that is deferred, but Lohse was insistent enough upon getting a three-year deal that he said he planned to hold out into the season until he was made what he deemed to be a fair offer.
"The whole thing, from a personal business standpoint, you don't want to take a bad one-year deal," Lohse said. "Even worse than that is a bad two-year deal. We made it work to where everyone was happy with a three-year deal."
Scott Boras, Lohse's agent, reached out to the Brewers early in the free-agent process after Lohse identified the team as "a good fit." He liked his familiarity with the National League Central and believes in the potential of the Brewers' offense -- once it gets healthy.
Lohse's start against the Cardinals on Friday was the first of 19 games the Brewers will play against the Cardinals this season. He allowed two runs over seven efficient innings and received a stirring ovation from a near-sellout crowd when he took his first at-bat.
"Everybody is glad to see him," Matheny said. "We're all big fans of Kyle and happy for him. It was a bizarre winter for him, and I know that it was tough on him and his family. He landed in a spot that we weren't all that excited about in the Central, because we have a great deal of respect for him. He's just going to get better."
Lohse ended Friday night with his last visit to his St. Louis-area home, which has been sold and is nearing its closing date. Spending the evening there allowed him a brief spell of normalcy in what has been an unusual and frustrating process over the past few months.
As for the reception he received from the St. Louis crowd on Friday, Lohse said it was both unexpected and moving.
"It made me feel good about what I had done," said Lohse, who went 55-35 with a 3.90 ERA during his career as a Cardinal. "Maybe I had left a good impression on everyone. They appreciated that I had showed up every day and did my job as best I could."