PITTSBURGH -- Just hours before he was to catch a flight to Atlanta on Thursday, now-former Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth stopped in the home clubhouse at PNC Park to say goodbye to teammates and to friends.

There was no absence of emotion, either. Still visibly shocked by Wednesday's news that the Pirates had sent him to the Braves for three prospects, McLouth spoke about the trade with tears in his eyes.

"It was the last thought in my mind, obviously," McLouth said of the trade. "The timing really caught me off guard. Like last year, when Xavier Nady and Jason Bay got traded, there was talk about it and it was something that, more or less, people saw coming. With this, I don't think that was necessarily the case. It's a strange feeling."

McLouth had just returned to his Pittsburgh apartment on Wednesday evening when general manager Neal Huntington called to give him the news. The Pirates' game against the Mets had been officially postponed about an hour earlier.

"This is my 10th year with the Pirates organization and there are a lot of good people I'm going to miss," said McLouth, a 25th-round Draft pick in 2000. "I was pretty sure there were going to be a few more years [here] after this one. Sometimes things don't ... "

McLouth stopped, too choked up to continue. He had to pause and collect his emotions numerous times during his brief session with the media.

The outfielder certainly had reason to be caught off guard by Wednesday's development, which also had McLouth's teammates still in disbelief the morning after. McLouth signed a three-year deal with a fourth-year club option in February, after which the organization labeled him as one of the cornerstones of the franchise's future.

Now, less than four months after reaching that agreement, McLouth will suit up for the Braves at Turner Field on Thursday night.

"Hopefully I'll fit in with those people as well as I have here," McLouth said. "There are so many different levels to the emotions that I'm feeling, but that's one of the things I'm looking forward to, is to have an immediate chance to be in the playoffs.

"Again, it's just going to be tough," he added. "The baseball part and transitioning to another team won't be -- leaving behind the people will."

McLouth represented the final remaining piece of an outfield corps that, at this time last year, was among the best in baseball. Nady left first, dealt to the Yankees in late July. Days later, Bay departed for Boston. Now, it's McLouth who finds himself as the latest piece lost in the Pirates' rebuilding process.

"I know how hard it was last year when those two guys left," he said. "Hopefully the rest of the guys can kind of take it in stride and believe in what they're doing here and believe that, as hard as it is for me to say, that this organization has a better shot of winning as an organization now."