Linebrink dealt for three Minor Leaguers
Reliever was recently demoted from eighth-inning setup role
DENVER -- By the time reporters reached Scott Linebrink on Wednesday, he was already knee-deep in hugs and handshakes from now-former teammates who were probably more stunned to hear that Linebrink had been traded than he was.
"This interview has been a long time coming, hasn't it?" Linebrink said with a smile to the approaching group of reporters, a playful nod to the many trade rumors that had encircled him the past year and a half.
But on Wednesday, rumor became reality as the Padres traded the 31-year-old Linebrink to the Milwaukee Brewers for three Minor League pitchers -- including right-hander Will Inman, who Baseball America rated as Milwaukee's third-best Minor League prospect.
"We think that this is a great deal," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "I'm sure fans are going to say, 'How is it a great deal?' since none of these guys have big-league time. It was a deal that was by far the best deal. This was one that collectively we looked at and said, 'We can't pass it up.'"
The Padres not only acquired the 20-year-old Inman, a right-hander, but also received 25-year-old left-hander Joe Thatcher, who will join the Padres on Thursday in Houston when they open a four-game series against the Astros.
The third player in the deal was another left-hander, 20-year-old Steve Garrison, who will likely join the Padres' Class A affiliate, Lake Elsinore.
Parting with Linebrink, 30, who had been with the Padres since 2003, wasn't easy, even if he had on Tuesday officially lost his spot as the team's eighth-inning specialist after a series of missteps this season that have led to a Major League-leading six blown saves.
"This organization appreciates the work I did when I was here. I basically resurrected my career and established myself over here. I think the recent blips on the radar screen won't even be an afterthought," Linebrink said. "I feel honored to have associated myself with these guys the last five years."
Overall, Linebrink -- who appeared in 73 games in each of the past two seasons for the Padres -- was 3-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 44 games with already as many home runs allowed (nine) this season as he yielded in all of 2006.
"Scott's name has come up over the last couple of years because he's a valued commodity," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "A lot of clubs have wanted him to be a closer. He's a fellow who can impact a bullpen."
"Chris Bourjos, one of our scouts, has been following him and he had a couple of rough outings recently. But Chris was not backing off on him. [Linebrink] is still throwing with good velocity."
Only now, Linebrink will be throwing those fastballs for the Brewers and not the Padres, which certainly didn't go over well in the clubhouse following a 10-2 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday.
"It's devastating ... losing a guy who has been a huge part of your team for the last five years, and the reason we've had any kind of success around here is because of what he and [closer Trevor Hoffman] Hoffy have been able to do at the end of ballgames," Padres pitcher Jake Peavy said. "To be in a playoff run and not have No. 38 to lean on. That's tough to swallow.
"But you've just got to trust the front office. When you're in the middle of a playoff run and you trade your setup man away? I don't know what kind of message that's sending."
The Padres, who entered Wednesday one game back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, will now turn to Heath Bell as their main eighth-inning setup man for Hoffman, who has 28 saves this season.
"It's not easy to do when you're in the pennant race ... he was going to be a free agent two months from now and there wasn't any guarantees that we were going to be able to bring him back," Towers said. "... We feel the way Bell has pitched of late, that he can handle the eighth."
Towers thinks Thatcher, who was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA for Triple-A Nashville, can be a part of that late-inning bullpen mix, along with Cla Meredith.
"We think Thatcher can give us some quality innings late in a ballgame," Towers said.
Thatcher started the season at Double-A Huntsville, where he was 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA over 14 games before he was promoted.
Towers is especially excited about the 20-year-old Inman, who was 1-5 with a 5.45 ERA in eight starts for Huntsville following a promotion from Class A Brevard County, where he was 4-3 with a 1.72 ERA. Combined, Inman has 140 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings.
"Inman is a guy who has a chance to be a front-of-the-line starter," said Towers, who also indicated Inman will likely report to Double-A San Antonio.
The 20-year-old Garrison was 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA, 28 walks and 74 strikeouts in 20 starts for Class A Brevard County.
"Will Inman is a top prospect and Garrison is a prospect. You have to give up something to get something," Melvin said. "Kevin [Towers] had a couple of clubs knocking on his door, and in the end, we stepped up and put a third pitcher [Garrison] in the deal to get the deal done."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.