Friday, March 26, 2010
POSTCARD FROM BREWERS SPRING TRAINING: Cut hurts more for reliever Schoeneweis
MARYVALE, Ariz. — Spring training is a contrast of extremes.
It's a place where dreams come true, or continue.
But it's also a place where dreams end.
Every day at this point in spring training, young prospects get called into managers offices all over Arizona to be told they won't make the team.
Some get sent to minor league camp while others get released outright.
It happens to veterans at the end of their line, too, their bats no longer able to get around on a fast ball or their legs no longer strong enough to allow them to adequately field their position.
Sometimes their pitching arm just isn't capable of getting outs anymore.
Whether it's telling a young kid he isn't good enough or a proud veteran he's no longer capable of playing at this level, it's never easy.
But some cuts just hurt a little more than others.
Scott Schoeneweis is a case in point.
The veteran left-handed reliever was released Tuesday by the Milwaukee Brewers, who told him they didn't have enough room in their bullpen to carry him.
He was given the news shortly after reporting to work. In a matter of minutes, he was saying good-bye to teammates he was just starting to forge friendships with.
What makes Schoeneweis' release so painful has nothing to do with baseball - the bottom line is the Brewers wanted to go in another direction and that is their right - but it has to do with what he continues to deal with off the field.
Last season, Schoeneweis' wife, Gabrielle, died suddenly in their Arizona home while he was away on a road trip with the Diamondbacks.
She left behind her husband and four young children.
Schoeneweis came back to pitch with the Diamondbacks last year but struggled the rest of the season, the pain and emotion from his wife's death too much to overcome, the challenge of balancing baseball with taking care of his kids too difficult.
Over the winter, he had trouble finding work before finally signing a minor-league deal with the Brewers.
He wonders now if his wife's death had anything to do with his difficulty finding work. This, after all, is a 12-year veteran who's been healthy and effective for most of his career.
But there he was this winter, with no serious offers.
"Why do I not have a big league contract this year?" he wondered, rhetorically.
He thinks he knows, painful as it might be, and he doesn't think it has anything to do with baseball.
"It's just ironic that I can't get a job because my wife died," Schoeneweis said. "It doesn't make much sense to me."
Schoeneweis was asked if his wife's death was being held against him in some form.
"I had a horrible year last year," he answered. "But I have a pretty good excuse.
"This will be my 12th year in the big leagues, and I wasn't injured last year. I wasn't out of the game because my skills diminished. I just had to prove to myself that I wanted to play, that it was OK with my family. I am OK with all of those things.
"I appreciate the platform to come in and realize those things and to realize that I am a better version of myself than I have been for the last three or four years."
Schoeneweis had a 7.71 ERA in seven appearances, although the numbers were deceptive because he wasn't being used in his primary role - left-handed specialist - during the spring.
More importantly, he was beginning to feel good about baseball again after losing his wife last year.
"The positive I take out of this is I realize I can have fun again," Schoeneweis said. "I haven't had fun for a long time. I know 100 percent that I am a big league pitcher, bottom line.
"It would be a shame if this was it for me, because I feel like I did when I was 28."
Schoeneweis said his wife's death remains difficult to deal with, but he's moved past the mourning part.
"No matter how upset I am, no matter how angry I am, no matter how sad I am, no matter how much I miss her, I have four kids I have to take care of and nothing is going to bring her back," he said. "So I have to appreciate what I have every day, every moment. And that's what I did, and I really enjoyed baseball again and I appreciate that. I'll take that with me to wherever I end up."