CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Cubs want to turn the page on the final two games of their just-completed homestand, there’s no better way than to take on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and former Cub Matt Garza on Friday night in Milwaukee.
The Cubs traded Garza to the Texas Rangers last season in a deal Rangers general manager Jon Daniels since described as one that could "haunt him." That’s because Garza didn’t pitch very well for Texas, then left as a free agent for a four-year, $50 million deal with Milwaukee.
The Cubs, meanwhile, acquired four players in the trade, including current major leaguers Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez. But the prize of the trade could be Double-A righty C.J. Edwards, who’s actually in Chicago to undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. So four of the five members of the trade will be in Milwaukee as Garza takes the mound.
"He’s always juiced for every start he makes," former teammate Jeff Samardzija said. "We’ll probably see the same guy we saw when he was with us -- fired up and ready to go."
Garza marches to his own drum at times, and with him facing one of his former teams -- as the Cubs' Carlos Villanueva does against the Brewers -- it should make for an entertaining evening. Obviously, both teams know the opposing starting pitcher well.
"I’m sure Garza is going to be Garza," Cubs starter Edwin Jackson said. "He hasn’t changed. Will be nice to start the series off with a win. We’re going to battle. Villanueva is going against his old team. Garza is against his old team. Should be a fun one to watch."
But the two squads are on different paths. The Brewers are the surprise of baseball at 16-6. After dropping the final two games of their set with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs still haven’t won a series this season and enter the weekend 7-14.
"This has been a pretty intense three weeks, where you have a team that is fighting to get a victory," manager Rick Renteria said. "That being said, at the end of the day, what do you need? Victories. We all know that.
"Good for us. We’re playing the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve been hot. Let’s see how we’re going to respond to a club that’s playing well. Let’s see where the test puts us."
It’ll probably be more fun to examine the trade more closely than the games themselves. The Cubs have a way of disappointing in the end, particularly with their bullpen a mess at the moment.
Maybe a guy like Ramirez can help. He was just recalled from Triple-A Iowa, and there’s a good chance he’ll make his debut this weekend. Grimm has been a nice addition to the middle of the bullpen; Olt has hit some big home runs already but enters the weekend batting .184. Edwards was pitching well at Double-A Tennessee, so the Cubs have to be holding their collective breath as they await word from the doctors on his shoulder.
Then there’s Garza. After returning from an injury last season, he was dominant before being traded to Texas -- but faltered down the stretch for the Rangers. Though the Brewers have won 16 games, Garza doesn’t have a victory yet this season and is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA through four starts.
"Garza is a good dude," Samardzija said. "Starting pitchers all have their own ways."
That’s another way of saying Garza likes to be different. Win or lose, plenty of storylines await this weekend -- and if none of them involves the Cubs bullpen, that might be a victory in itself.