HOUSTON -- Hearing the news that longtime friend and teammate Roy Oswalt had been dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies certainly didn't come as a surprise to Lance Berkman, who combined with Oswalt to form the cornerstones of the club in the 2000s.
"It's kind of sad, really," Berkman said. "It's not surprising, because all this has been going on for a while and I thought he would wind up getting traded. We both signed in '97 and have been playing together pretty much ever since. He's certainly a good friend of mine and we had a great run. Roy is obviously a huge part of the best years the franchise ever had, and he's definitely one of the all-time greats we've ever had in the organization."
The departure of Oswalt after 10 years and 143 wins with the organization that drafted him in 1996 leaves Berkman and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez as the only holdovers from Houston's World Series club of five years ago.
Berkman, who made his Major League debut in 1999, understands the club's desire to get younger by dealing veteran players, but saying goodbye to friends isn't easy. The Astros were off Thursday, and Oswalt called Berkman to inform him of the trade.
"I certainly feel like it would have been better to do it in person than over the phone, but with the off-day, those things can't be helped," Berkman said. "I told him I'll see him in Philly when we come there next month and then just wished him luck. It's one of those things we kind of expected."
Instead of sending Oswalt to the mound Friday night in the series opener against the Phillies, Astros manager Brad Mills will give the ball to left-hander J.A. Happ, who was acquired by the Astros in the deal along with two Minor Leaguers.
"Any time you have a guy like Roy, it's pretty special," Mills said. "Any team that loses somebody like Roy, you're going to lose a guy who has a good chance to win every time he takes the mound. But there's always turnover, there's always a time to move on. I think we're focused on the guys we have and excited about their abilities and what they bring to the table."
Right fielder Hunter Pence was sad to see Oswalt go, but happy the Astros were able to fulfill his wish and trade him to a contender.
"I'm happy for him for getting what he wanted," Pence said. "You've got to have faith in bringing up the young guys, and guys like Happ get the program moving in the right direction. It's a good thing for us."
Pitcher Bud Norris is one of the youngsters the Astros will be counting on in the coming years as they try to infuse youth into the Major League roster. Norris' locker was strategically placed next to Oswalt's during Spring Training this year, and he said the experience was invaluable.
"Roy was such a great guy and opened up to me last year and this year and I never took a day for granted with Roy," Norris said. "He helped me progress and I'll cherish what he taught me. It's tough to see him go. It's tough to swallow, but I hope it's the best thing for the Astros and the best thing for him as well."
Mills said he was excited about what the 27-year-old Happ could bring to the club. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA last year and bounced between Triple-A and the Phillies this year while dealing with a forearm strain the Astros contend is healed.
"We're getting a pitcher that we've heard some absolutely great things about, stuff-wise and makeup-wise and everything," Mills said. "He's five years younger than Roy, and that's pretty exciting."
Berkman has told the Astros he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the club found a deal to make itself better, but he hasn't gone as far as Oswalt and requested a trade. He said the club hasn't approached him about a trade and expects to finish out the season in Houston.
"I don't think there's anything that's imminent, but that doesn't mean something couldn't happen," Berkman said. "The next 48 hours will be interesting to how it plays out, but not only with us, but around baseball. I know a lot of teams are trying to fill holes and always this time of year there's a lot of interest."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.