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Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Scott Schoeneweis throws batting practice during spring training baseball Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

PHOENIX - Very few things in life have been fair for Scott Schoeneweis since May 20, 2009.

It was on that date that the veteran relief pitcher, in Florida with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a doubleheader against the Marlins, received word that his wife had died back home in Fountain Hills, Ariz.

An autopsy later revealed that 39-year-old Gabrielle Schoeneweis died from an overdose of cocaine and the anesthetic lidocaine.

Schoeneweis' world was turned upside down that day, and it has yet to completely right itself.

Suddenly, the single parent of four children aged 2 through 14, he was left to grieve for his wife yet stay strong for the family, while also trying to figure out if returning to his career as a major-league pitcher made any sense.

``I don't have too much of a choice other than to be positive and strong for my kids, and be OK,'' said Schoeneweis, trying to win a spot in the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen this spring as a non-roster invitee.

``I've got four people that depend on me more than ever.''

The left-handed specialist spent three weeks on the bereavement list after the death of his wife before deciding to return to the Diamondbacks. Unable to focus on baseball, he was tagged for 15 runs in nine innings before being placed on the disabled list with depression.

``He showed a lot of character coming back to pitch last season, even though he didn't pitch the way he wanted to,'' said left-hander Doug Davis, who played with Schoeneweis in Arizona before signing with the Brewers over the winter.

``Just to come back had to be tough. But getting back with your team is important. It's the only thing that was normal for him. I don't know him that well, but you could tell that he was a lot more quiet after that.

``I tried to give him some distance. What can you say, really? You don't want to bring it up if he's not ready for it. It was a horrible situation. I can't even imagine what he was going through.''

Making the tragedy even more heart-wrenching were the circumstances involving Gabrielle's death, which Schoeneweis has not addressed publicly.

He tried to have the cause of death sealed to protect his children, but a three-judge Court of Appeals panel disclosed the autopsy results on Dec. 1 in a ruling under Arizona's public records law.

Schoeneweis, 36, knew that revelation would be particularly difficult on 14-year-old Kiley, Gabrielle's daughter from a previous marriage. It was Kiley who found her mother lying unresponsive on the floor of her parents' bedroom and made a 911 call for help.

``She's the one I worry about the most,'' said Schoeneweis, who had celebrated his 10th anniversary with Gabrielle in January 2009. ``They were really close. She lost her buddy, her best friend.

``But we're doing better than I could ever imagine. She's on her own program. She's the toughest one.''

Any married baseball player will tell you that it's the wife who keeps the household together. The long season keeps players away from home for weeks at a time, turning them into absentee husbands and fathers.

With his anchor gone forever, Schoeneweis spent months trying to restructure his family unit. He hired two nannies to provide care for the children, and his mother spends as much time as possible with them.

``I have tons of support,'' said Schoeneweis, who pitched a scoreless inning Monday morning in a ``B'' game against Cincinnati. ``But people don't realize that doesn't matter.

``I'm still the one making the decisions. My kids love my parents, and they're getting close to the nannies, but they don't make decisions without checking with the big boss.

``It's like running a company. I'm still the boss that makes all the decisions and has to deal with everything at the end of the day. That's OK. If anybody can handle it, I can handle it.''

Feeling more comfortable with his children's care, Schoeneweis made the off-season decision to continue his career after 11 seasons in the majors. But, much to his dismay, the telephone didn't ring.

As if the circumstances of his wife's death weren't awful enough, teams apparently figured he's never recover enough mentally to be an effective pitcher again.

``I wasn't hurt; I wasn't forced out of the game,'' he said. ``I just had to go through something that really influenced my year, last year, and kind of put me in a tough spot.

``I went through a lot of that last year where I quit (mentally). I couldn't handle it. I was right in the middle of it. There were a lot of things I had to iron out and handle while trying to play.

``When I came back in September, after I got some time off, and had things kind of in place and worked through some personal stuff and feelings, I was in a better place than I was in June. And, from that point to now, even more so.''

Shortly before the start of spring training, Schoeneweis' agent, Scott Boras, called with news that the Brewers offered a non-roster invitation to spring training. If he makes the team, he would receive an $800,000 salary.

It wasn't exactly the kind of deal he sought, but Schoeneweis figured it was his best shot for many reasons.

Because the Brewers trained where he lived, he could be with his children as much as possible during camp. The team also played most of the 2009 season with only one left-handed reliever, Mitch Stetter.

``I was looking for the easiest situation for me and my family,'' he said. ``There were best-case scenarios and other scenarios, and some that were in between. There were some scenarios that I absolutely would not go for.

``There were teams outside of the ones I was initially looking to sign with. Once they passed, I realized I was limiting myself in a tough market, coming off a tough year. This popped up.

``It's a shame, the circumstances. In a normal year, I don't think I'm signing a minor-league deal, I don't think I'm having these types of issues. There's nothing I could do.

``I honestly didn't expect to sign when I signed. The writing was on the wall. Guys coming off perfectly normal years, whose wives didn't die the year before, were in the same boat I was in.''

Part of the allure of signing with the Brewers was reuniting with pitching coach Rick Peterson, who served in that role for the New York Mets when Schoeneweis pitched for that club from 2007-'08.

Manager Ken Macha has checked in periodically with Peterson to see how Schoeneweis seems mentally, and he likes what he hears.

``I'm sure it's a battle for him at times,'' Macha said. ``He learned there are more important issues than baseball.''

Nevertheless, Schoeneweis has kept a low profile for the most part in camp. Aware of the nightmare he lived through, other players don't really know what to say, or even if Schoeneweis is in the mood for horseplay, a staple of most clubhouses.

``Baseball is like a brotherhood,'' said Davis. ``When somebody loses somebody close, we all feel it. None of us can relate to what he's going through.

``It can't be easy. I don't know how he does it. He's obviously mentally strong, to put that out of his mind even for a little while.''

Actually, Schoeneweis seldom puts the loss out of his wife out of mind, whether he has a baseball in his hand or not. He realizes some people will second-guess his decision to resume his baseball career under the circumstance.

But Schoeneweis is determined to see if this can work. Maybe the Brewers will make the decision easy by cutting him at the end of camp, turning him into a full-time single parent.

To hear Schoeneweis, however, he plans to make that decision very difficult.

``It's never not going to be tragic; it's never not going to be on my mind,'' he said. ``One of the reasons I wanted to play was because I wasn't able to for quite some time. Now, I feel I may be able to focus on baseball for the first time in a long time.

``I don't want any pity or people asking, 'Why would you play?' It's tough having that type of conjecture. It's not like I'm done playing. If you take baseball away, I have nothing, really. I'll take care of my kids regardless.

``If I didn't think I could play, I wouldn't be here. My kids want me to play. This isn't something I saw coming or could prepare for. This is my job, this is what I do.

``I really wanted to play this year, also, to get an idea what it would be like. Can I handle it? Can the kids handle it? Will it be OK? If it is, great. If it's not, then I'll know. This will tell me what happens. I don't mean to use it as a guinea-pig situation, but without playing, I won't know.''

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