Publically, players tried their best to give management's decision to trade McLouth to Atlanta for three prospects -- right-hander Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and left-hander Jeff Locke -- their support. Privately, however, the reaction was laced with displeasure, disappointment and more questions.
Many in the Pirates' clubhouse have seen key players like McLouth dealt midseason before and have a harder time accepting the acquisition of Minor League prospects when their concerns lie with winning now.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," said second baseman Freddy Sanchez, when asked if he saw this as a sign that the rebuilding process continues within this organization. "We're four games under .500 and playing OK. I think if we could have gotten a little more offensive output from us then I think we could be right in the thick of things. It's definitely tough to look at it not as rebuilding.
"You don't want to second guess anybody or question anybody," he continued. "They have a plan that they want to follow and the guys still here are a part of it. We'll try to make the best of it."
Anger and shock were arguably the most pervasive emotions among the players on Wednesday and both were still fresh. Not that losing Jason Bay, Xavier Nady or Damaso Marte last summer was any easier, but in each of those cases, their teammates had braced for the likelihood that each was on his way out. That was not the case with McLouth, who was seen as one of the organization's most stable pieces.
"We all know and understand that this is part of it," closer Matt Capps said. "It surprised us by who it was. We didn't see it coming. You don't know what [management's] thoughts are or what their plans are, but that's not my job. We've just got to be able to get over it and move on."
"It [is too bad] because Nate's such a good player and he's a really good dude on the field and off the field," reliever John Grabow said. "He's a class act in both ways. To lose a guy like that is tough. We don't make those decisions. We've just got to keep on playing and go back out there and play hard until the game is over."
Manager John Russell spent part of the morning calling players into his office to address them personally about the decision to deal McLouth with the season still only two months old.
"We'll move on. We'll have to," Russell said. "The players will be OK. They're losing a good friend. They're losing a guy who was a big part of the organization. Obviously, it's tough to lose Nate. We know what Nate is. He's a great influence here at the ballpark and in the community. But we are very excited about Andrew McCutchen. It's his time."
When asked if they felt that management's decision to trade McLouth now, with the team sitting only four games under .500 and 6 1/2 games from the top of the division at the start of the day on Thursday, was equivalent to waving a white flag on the season, a number of players still seemed unsure of how to answer.
"I hope not, because these guys in this clubhouse haven't given up," Grabow said. "And I know the coaching staff hasn't. These guys have been battling all year. I know these guys aren't giving up."
Said Sanchez: "I don't want to say yes, [that management is giving up on the season], but it's hard to hide from the fact that... I don't think they are giving up on the season, but I don't know what's going on. I don't know what they're thinking. They're the bosses. They are the ones who are making decisions.
"I don't think they're giving up on the season, but at the same time, it was such a big shock that it's hard to know what to think right now."
To those concerns, had by fans and players alike, Pirates president Frank Coonelly had this answer: "We're not throwing in the towel on the 2009 season. That's absolutely not true. If Andrew McCutchen wasn't ready, I think some people could think about it differently. But Andrew McCutchen is ready to step in."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.