They all recognized the red flag.
One minute Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was in the lineup. Then, he was scratched.
He had been in the clubhouse earlier in the afternoon, preparing for Friday night’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals.
He was circled by media, who wanted to ask him about being put on waivers and being claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He said all he wanted to talk about was baseball, that he didn’t want to talk about the implications of a possible trade. He gave a thumbs up. Then, he disappeared.
But when he wasn’t in the lineup, everyone knew what it meant.
“Normally the first thing you think of is trade,” Mike Aviles said.
Aviles didn’t know if it was official or just a rumor.
“In all honesty, all I know is that he didn’t play today and it’s a possibility,” Aviles said. “It happened so quick, I was already out there in the dugout, getting ready to run out and stretch. So I really didn’t have time to really process and think about it.”
Dustin Pedroia said he started to get wind of everything about an hour before first pitch. But at that point, he considered it hearsay.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “They’re your teammates. I don’t really know what’s going on. We all don’t really know what’s going on. So we’re just waiting to see.”
Jon Lester didn’t know until he was about to take the mound. Finally finding a rhythm, he was focused on building on the consecutive wins he had recorded.
“I’ve got to worry about me,” he said. “Especially in that situation. You just have to stay in your little tunnel with everything. Especially around here. You’ve just got to try to keep your head down and eyes in front of you and try to make pitches.”
The distraction of a rumored trade that would ship Gonzalez to Los Angeles along with Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto hovered over the team from the hours leading up to the game to when the Sox were leaving the clubhouse after a 4-3 win.
“You’ve just got to go compete,” said Pedroia, who went 1 for 3. “Those are things you can’t control. We’re just going to try to go out and win the ballgame. That’s basically it.”
The players the Red Sox would be trading away are owed a combined $274 million. Collectively they have 11 All-Star appearances and four Gold Gloves, and Beckett has won a World Series MVP.
“It’s a lot of talent, a lot of money, a lot of things,” Pedroia said.
David Ortiz returned to the lineup after missing 35 games with a strained right Achilles’, and after going 2 for 4 with two RBIs he tried to wrap his head around the reasoning behind the potential deal.
“I think they’re looking to put the ball club in a better situation next year,” Ortiz said. “I’m not saying that we’re going to be in a better situation without those players. We’ll find out.”
Sox right fielder Cody Ross was a waiver addition by the Giants in August 2010 and helped push San Francisco to a World Series title.
“Nothing shocks me in this game anymore,” Ross said. “Stuff happens all the time. That’s just the way the game is. Enough of us have been around where it’s not that big of a shock. When I was younger it was a shock, because I didn’t expect those things to happen. But over time, as you play more and you see things, nothing surprises you.”
Losing a centerpiece like Gonzalez, who has played in all but six games since coming to Boston, hitting .338 last year and .300 this year, is significant.
“It’s hard to lose a player like him,” Aviles said. “But that’s just the way it is.”
Even in the Red Sox clubhouse, which has seen plenty of turbulence this season, the impact of a possible deal is clear.
“You build relationships with guys, you’ve been through a lot with them,” Pedroia said. “That part’s difficult.”