Thursday morning, Brad Wilkerson rummaged around in his locker for an item he had used just twice this year: his first baseman's mitt. When he finally found it, he smiled, as if discovering an old toy.
Only a few moments earlier, Ryan Church stood across the visitors' clubhouse at Miller Park, and spoke about meeting with Frank Robinson, the Washington Nationals' manager. The topic: Church's role on the club, which is likely to be reduced. "I'm not one to complain," Church said. "It's best for the ballclub."
And at 11:20 a.m. local time, less than two hours before the Nationals' first game following the all-star break, Preston Wilson walked through the door to Robinson's office, dressed in jeans and a striped, button-down shirt. "What took you so long?" Robinson bellowed sarcastically.
While the merits of the Nationals' trade for Wilson on Wednesday will be debated for the rest of the season, the ramifications were felt immediately after the all-star break, beginning with Thursday afternoon's 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals gave up right-hander Zach Day and minor league outfielder J.J. Davis, neither of whom was on the major league roster, for Wilson, who started in center field, hit fifth and homered in his first game as a National.
Wilson said he welcomed the change from the last-place Rockies to the first-place Nationals.
"Anybody in this game, once you prove yourself as a veteran, wants to play games that mean something," he said.
But Wilson's arrival meant changes for several current Nationals, so Robinson met with a few before Thursday's game. In the long run, Church and Marlon Byrd -- who had been sharing the left field job -- will be affected the most, so Robinson sat them down individually.
"It's definitely going to take some at-bats from some of us," Church said, "but I'm in the big leagues. I'm glad [Robinson] talked to me about it."
With first baseman Nick Johnson still recovering from a heel injury, Wilkerson got just his second start -- and third appearance -- at first base this season. He will remain there until Johnson returns, which leaves the platoon of Church and Byrd in left field for now. When Johnson returns, Wilkerson -- who had started 75 games in center field -- will move to left.
"I feel fine about it," Wilkerson said. "I feel like I'll go over there [to first], I know I'm going to be there every day until Nick gets back."
Wilson's arrival was universally accepted by Nationals players who understand the club has scored fewer runs than any team in baseball. His home run -- which was accompanied by two groundouts and a strikeout -- reinforced that.
"He's been doing that since he came up in the big leagues," said third baseman Vinny Castilla, a teammate last year in Colorado. "I don't think we were surprised by that. That's why he's here. He's here to help us produce runs, and help us in the middle of the lineup."
Robinson said he is well aware of the fact that Wilson strikes out at a high rate. He is also well aware of the fact that spacious RFK Stadium isn't Denver's Coors Field. But he also knows of his own club's offensive weaknesses, and he endorsed the trade.
"We feel like this makes us a little better," Robinson said. "Does it make us a whole lot better, like a top-flight guy [would]? No. But it makes us better than we were, and that's the way we look at it."