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WAUKEE -- Zack Greinke is gone, so what now for the Brewers?
That question reverberated around Miller Park on Friday after the defending National League Central champions traded away their best pitcher. Greinke went to the Angels for three intriguing prospects who were shipped directly to Double-A Huntsville, meaning they probably won't wear a Brewers uniform until September at the earliest.
Mark Rogers, a one-time top prospect trying again to work his way back from injury, will take Greinke's place in the rotation beginning Sunday. And the rest of the Brewers will play on.
"One thing Zack said to me," general manager Doug Melvin told reporters after bidding goodbye to one of his favorite players, "is that we have a lot of talent on this club, still. We've lost a lot of games, but they've been at the back end of the bullpen. I'm not blaming the bullpen; people can do that. When you win or lose games, it's because of all of the parts of your team.
"But there's a lot of talent here, still."
Melvin enumerated some of that talent. Two quality catchers in Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado. All-Star left fielder Ryan Braun under contract through at least 2020. Corey Hart looking good at first base. Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Hart at the heart of the batting order. Yovani Gallardo still atop the pitching rotation. Upstart outfielder Norichika Aoki. Upstart starter Mike Fiers.
The Brewers will avoid using the word "rebuild" around Miller Park.
"The thing is, I think the transition to giving opportunities to pitchers is going to be the biggest thing we're going to be looking at here in the next six to eight weeks," Melvin said.
Rogers is up first on Sunday. The Brewers will also continue to look at 23-year-old Tyler Thornburg, who might have had the first crack at replacing Greinke had he not suffered what the Brewers are calling a tired arm on Thursday. Top pitching prospect Wily Peralta, enduring an up-and-down season at Triple-A Nashville, will probably see Milwaukee before the season is over. Fiers continued to establish himself as a bona fide big leaguer with 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals on Friday, lowering his ERA to 1.77 after 66 innings.
The Brewers will play on. Saturday will be game No. 100 of 162.
"It's nice that it's over," Hart said of the looming Greinke deal, which became all but inevitable after the team's 0-6 road trip. "It's all guys have been talking about. 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."
Word spread through the clubhouse in the hour before Friday's first pitch that Greinke had been dealt. Figuring Greinke's private personality meant he wouldn't go around announcing his departure, manager Ron Roenicke went locker by locker, informing players of the trade.
But Greinke did tell some teammates face-to-face, including fellow starter Gallardo.
"Respectful," said Gallardo, who greatly appreciated the gesture.
It was a strange scene in a clubhouse accustomed to welcoming new additions in recent seasons, not watching players go. The last time the Brewers traded away a pending free agent because they could not re-sign him was 2006, when Melvin shipped off Carlos Lee. That deal was different in that it was the Brewers parting with the trade's best prospect -- outfielder Nelson Cruz -- and that it included three Major Leaguers coming the other way.
This time it was an established player for prospects. Closer John Axford tweeted a photo of some of Greinke's teammates giving him a good-bye bear hug.
"It was weird," said Gallardo, who was in that photo. "Most of the guys in there were like, 'Should we be happy for him? What's the deal?' We really didn't know how to express ourselves."
So, many simply said good luck.
"He's a great pitcher," Gallardo said.
"I'm just sad to see a great talent go," Ramirez said. "You always want to add people, not get rid of people. It's tough when that happens, but we haven't played the way we like to, and that's what teams do when they get out of the race."
The Brewers began the post-Greinke era on a positive note, shutting out the Nationals, 6-0.
"We're going to go down fighting," Lucroy said. "I think we proved tonight that we can go out there and hang with anybody. Those guys are a pretty good team over there, and we put it on them. It was a lot of fun."