Grisham spurred by trade, spotlight moment

February 24th, 2020

PHOENIX -- Four and a half months before he strode to the batter’s box for the Padres on Sunday afternoon in the first inning of the Cactus League opener, stood in the center of the Brewers’ clubhouse amid a crush of cameras, lights and microphones.

For something like 20 minutes of “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir,” last October, at just shy of 23 years old and having just played his 52nd game in a Major League uniform, Grisham dissected the worst moment of his baseball life in excruciating detail. He answered question after question about his error in the eighth inning of the National League Wild Card Game, which gave the Nationals the go-ahead run as the Brewers’ season ended in stunning fashion.

“It’s going to sting for some time,” Grisham said in a hushed tone that night.

By Sunday, enough time had passed that the sting had subsided and it was time to start over. The Brewers traded Grisham and pitcher to the Padres on the day before Thanksgiving. And wouldn’t you know it? Thanks to rainouts on Saturday, the teams opened Cactus League play against each other at American Family Fields of Phoenix, the complex where Grisham learned what it means to be a professional.

“After the first week or so,” Grisham said of the aftermath of the error, “you kind of start to get over it and realize you’ve got another season to prepare for. And, really, it’s just a pride factor -- you don’t want one play to define your whole career. So you get home, you get ready to work, you get eager to work and you get excited to get back.”

The Brewers and Padres believe they made a good baseball trade when Grisham and Davies went to San Diego for infielder , left-hander and a player to be named. The Brewers got a former Top 100 prospect and potential starting shortstop in Urías and a pitcher with additional contractual control in Lauer, and they saved some money to direct to other needs. The Padres picked up the Brewers’ leading innings-eater from 2019 in Davies plus Grisham, whose on-base tool (.376 on-base percentage in five Minor League seasons) was needed for a club that has ranked among the Majors Leagues’ bottom five in that category for six straight seasons.

It will take some time to determine which side got the better of the deal. Urías is recovering from surgery for a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and might miss Opening Day. Lauer is competing to be Milwaukee’s No. 5 starter.

“It shook me up at first, of course,” said Grisham, the Brewers’ first-round Draft pick in 2015. “Just a lot of sentimental value with Milwaukee and the city, just being drafted by them and all the friends I made over the first five years. That was a little tough at first. But after you get past the initial shock, start to really think about it and process it, it was a good thing. It’s nice to be wanted by another team. So, it all worked itself out.”

Grisham was Milwaukee’s 2019 Minor League Player of the Year after posting a 1.010 OPS in the Minors while advancing from Double-A Biloxi to Triple-A San Antonio to the big leagues by the end of July. He happened to play a position of strength for the Brewers, who are getting Christian Yelich back from the knee injury that opened everyday playing time for Grisham last September.

The Padres, meanwhile, are flush with outfielders, but they're looking for a regular in center. They think Grisham might be that guy. But they want to see him handle left-handed pitching this spring. Sure enough, Grisham lined a single up the middle off lefty in his first at-bat Sunday. He finished 1-for-3 and wasn’t tested in center field in the Padres’ 7-2 victory.

When the trade went down, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns made a point to say that the error played no role in the team’s willingness to trade an up-and-coming outfielder. To the contrary, Grisham’s conduct in the aftermath of the error made manager Craig Counsell proud, he said Sunday.

“Trent handled himself after the game as well as you can ask an athlete to handle the situation,” Counsell said Sunday. “This is a rookie athlete, and if they’re able to handle it so well so quickly, chances are they’ll figure out the right way to process it and move forward from it. That was not a concern for us at all. I was proud of him for how he handled it.”

Grisham heard a lot of that, both in the immediate aftermath of the play and in the weeks that followed.

“That’s part of our job,” he said. “We know that coming into being a big league baseball player, that you’re going to have to answer questions whether it’s going good or it’s going bad. We’re very aware of it. And like I said, it was a testament to those older guys helping me out because I was a young kid two months in the big leagues. That matured me a lot, for sure.”