The Dodgers trailed the Diamondbacks 7-0 on July 30, 2012, and Josh Lindblom pitched a scoreless sixth inning. He only threw 14 pitches in the sixth, so he was a lock to pitch the seventh inning, too. But manager Don Mattingly pulled Lindblom and went with Shawn Tolleson to pitch the seventh inning.
"That was the first time I thought something might be going on," Lindblom said Friday, looking back to last season.
It was the day before the non-waiver trade deadline, and the Dodgers were active. Just five days earlier the club added Hanley Ramirez and left-handed specialist reliever Randy Choate.
During the game on July 30, the Dodgers traded for reliever Brandon League from the Mariners, a move that was announced after the game. Asked after the game if pulling Lindblom had anything to do with a potential trade, Mattingly was vague:
With Aaron Harang out after five innings and trailing 7-0, it was a perfect spot to use a long reliever. But Mattingly said the potential for trades and mid-game transactions made him weary of putting all of his eggs in one basket. So instead, five relievers combined to pitch four innings.
"It's one of those nights where you don't know what's going on tonight," Mattingly said. "What I tried to do tonight is have everybody available tomorrow."
But what really happened was that Lindblom was mentioned in trade talks with the Phillies, as the Dodgers were looking to acquire outfielder Shane Victorino.
"Donnie came up to me after the game and said 'I don't know what's going on. I don't know why we did it, but as soon as I know something I'll let you know'," Lindblom recalled.
Incidentally, if anyone ever wanted to know the definition of a players' manager and why Mattingly is one, letting players know where they stand comes first and foremost.
"A lot of managers say their door is always open. But sometimes that's a tough road because you don't really know if it really is open or if their just saying that," Lindblom said. "But with Donnie it really is. He'll talk about anything, whatever you're going through. Baseball, it doesn't really matter what it was."
Lindblom went home that Monday night not knowing if he would still be with the Dodgers, the organization that drafted him in the second round in 2008.
But at 1 a.m. Lindblom got a call from his agent at ACES, the same agency at the time as Victorino. He said the Dodgers and Phillies were exchanging medical records and that a deal was nearly done. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti called Lindblom at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, July 31. The trade was complete.
The Dodgers got Victorino from the Phillies in exchange for Lindblom, former first round pitcher Ethan Martin, and a player to be named later who later became Stefan Jarrin.
Lindblom went to Dodger Stadium to get the stuff from his locker. A few people were there, like bench coach Trey Hillman, bullpen catcher Rob Flippo and strength coach Stephen Downey. Also there was third base coach Tim Wallach, who managed Lindblom in Triple-A Albuquerque in 2009 and 2010.
"It was hard. With Wally, he had been through a lot with me in Triple-A," Lindblom said. "He was with me the year I had that was really bad, and he was one guy who never gave up on me."
The Phillies had a game on Tuesday night, a 4:05 p.m. PT start in Washington D.C. against the Nationals. But first Lindblom had to take care of things in Los Angeles.
"We had an apartment in L.A. My wife and I had to pack everything up that morning," Lindblom said. "They tried getting me on a flight to get there for that game that night, but there was no way that was going to happen. I took a red eye and got there the next day."
There was also the suddenness of leaving the only major league organization he ever knew, one Lindblom had been with for five years.
"You develop relationships with people. I grew up in front of those guys' eyes. The guys on that team, I spent my whole career playing with them. That was really the hardest thing. You come up with these players and you play with guys for so long, they become like family to you," Lindblom said. "It flips your world upside down. You have to go to a new place and meet new people and new teammates, and leave your comfort zone.
"In a trade situation that's one of the hard things that mentally you don't realize. You might think, 'I'll just put on another uniform and go make pitches.' There are a lot of other things that go on with acclimating to a new team, getting to know a new pitching coach and new manager and how they react. I really struggled with it."
Lindblom won the final bullpen spot out of spring training with the Dodgers in 2012 and was 2-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 48 games at the time he was dealt. With the Phillies, Lindblom was 1-3 with a 4.63 ERA in 26 games. Lindblom walked 18 in 47⅔ innings with the Dodgers, but walked 17 in 23⅓ innings in Philadelphia. The transition was tough.
"It was really intimidating at first. The guys in that clubhouse, there are some potential Hall of Famers," Lindblom said. "You go to that new clubhouse, with guys who have had success in the game. You just have to feel out the clubhouse.
"It is kind of like the first day of school all over again. New friends, new coaches, new teammates, new teachers. It's very similar, to be pulled out of an environment you're accustomed to into a totally new environment."
Lindblom has even more perspective now on last year's trade, as he was also involved in another transaction during the offseason. The Phillies dealt Lindblom to the Rangers in December as part of the Michael Young trade. He had all spring training to learn his new team, a luxury not afforded in midseason deals.
"With the trade from L.A. to Philly, you're kind of just thrust into action. You have to go in and compete in a regular season situation," Lindblom said. "This year I had all spring training to get to know my teammates, for a month and a half, so that transition was a lot easier."
In 2013, Texas converted Lindblom back to a starting pitcher. He is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in eight games, including five starts with the Rangers this season. Lindblom is also 8-1 with Triple-A Round Rock and leads the Pacific Coast League with a 2.21 ERA (minimum 40 innings).
"I went to these new organizations and tried to impress people and stopped being myself and who I was with the Dodgers, where Donnie, Honey and Kenny Howell knew who I was," Lindblom said. "You really have to mentally lock in and realize what you think about yourself is really first and foremost, and you can't really worry about what everyone else is saying."